Time Management: Stay on Track

14/03/2023by dang tin0

Stay on Track

“WHAT IS THE most valuable use of my time right now?” Because it is the most important question in all of time management, ask it over and over again until it becomes an automatic guide that motivates and drives you to focus on your highest-value task or activity. When you organize all of your time and work activities around the answer to this question, you will be astonished at how much more produc- tive you become, and how quickly.

Sometimes I ask my audiences, “What is your most valu- able financial asset?” After they have thought it over and given me a couple of answers, I point out that the answer is actually “your earning ability.” Your ability to earn money represents as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of your financial value in the world of work. Think of yourself as an “earning machine.” Every task that you work on contributes a value of some kind, either high or low. Your job is to focus on the most valuable use of your time and to discipline yourself to continually work on those few activities that contribute the greatest value to your work and to your business.

A Lifestyle Principle

This selection of the most valuable use of your time applies to every area of your life as well. Sometimes, the most valuable use of your time, especially if you are working extremely hard, is to go home and go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes the most valuable use of your time is to spend it face-to-face with the important people in your life. Sometimes the most valuable use of your time is to take excellent care of your physical health, by eating the right foods, taking time to get exercise regularly, and getting the proper rest and relax- ation that you need to perform at your best. Sometimes the most valuable use of your time is just to spend it with your family or to read a good book rather than watching television. At other times, the most valuable use of your time will be to socialize; to get together with family and friends whose company you enjoy so that you can relax and destress. What matters most is for you to always be asking yourself this question: “What is the most valuable use of my time right now ?” And then you discipline yourself to start and complete that activity, whatever it is. When you begin to incorporate this one suggestion into your time management skills and your day, you will become one of the most efficient time managers of your generation.

The Important vs. the Urgent

In terms of your tasks and activities, setting priorities is largely about separating the “vital few” from the “trivial many.” There are four different types of tasks that you are faced with every day. Your ability to sort out these tasks into their proper categories can significantly increase your productivity. Each of these tasks can be put into a different box or quadrant.


An important task is something that has long-term conse- quences for your career. An urgent task is something that can- not be delayed or put off. A task that is both urgent and important is something that is “in your face.” It is largely determined by external demands on your time, by tasks and responsibilities that you must start and complete in order to keep on top of your job. There are people you have to see, things that you have to do, and places that you have to go. There are customers to visit, tasks to complete, and activities that others are expecting you to accomplish. Most people spend most of their working day on tasks that are both vital and urgent. Your most important tasks, your highest priorities, are both urgent and important. This is called the “quadrant of immediacy.”


The second type of tasks are those that are important but not urgent. They can be delayed or procrastinated upon, at least for the short term. An example of a task that is vital but not urgent is an important report that you must have written, approved, and submitted by the end of the month. Or think about a college term paper. It is something that is vital to your grade at the end of the semester, but it is also something that can be put off for weeks and months, and often is. (Most term papers are written the night before the deadline. What was at one time vital but not urgent suddenly becomes very urgent indeed.)

Throughout your life, you are surrounded by important but not urgent tasks. Reading important books in your field, taking additional courses, upgrading your skills and abilities are all vital to your long-term success, but they are not urgent. So, you procrastinate doing them. Most people who fail or underachieve in business have unfortunately put off upgrading their skills and abilities for so long that they are simply passed over and surpassed by other, more deter- mined and aggressive people who want to enjoy greater rewards and responsibilities.

Even something as simple as physical exercise is vital to your health, but not urgent. You can put it off for an extended period of time, and most people do. Doctors say that 85 percent of the major health problems that people have later in life could have been avoided if they had engaged in proper health habits, including diet and exercise, for most of their adult lives. These tasks fall into the “quadrant of effectiveness.”


You probably have people coming into your office, calling or messaging you, sending you e-mails, but your responses to them contribute little or no value to your business or your work. They represent tasks that are urgent but not important. These tasks fall into what is often called the “quadrant of delusion.” People think that because they are engaging in these activities during the working day, they must have some value, but they are just kidding themselves into career irrelevance. Many people spend as much as half of their time engaging in activities that are urgent but not important. They are fun, easy, and enjoyable, but they make no contribution to the work at all. Most of these activities involve idle conver-sation with coworkers, or low-value/no-value activities.


The fourth type of activity that people engage in at work are those tasks that are neither urgent nor important. These activities fall into the “quadrant of waste.” Many people engage in activities that have zero value to either themselves or the company. Reading e-mail spam or reading the sports pages, going shopping during the day, or driving around between appointments listening to the radio—all are examples of activities that are neither urgent nor important. They are a complete waste of time. They contribute nothing to your life.

Develop Good Work Habits

The great tragedy is that if you do something repeatedly, you soon develop a habit. And a habit, once formed, is hard to break. Many people have developed the habit of spending most of their time on low-value/no-value activities and then are quite astonished when they are laid off from their jobs or passed over for promotion.

The key to good time management is for you to set prior- ities and to always be working on what is both urgent and important—that is, your most pressing and important tasks. Once you are caught up with your tasks that are urgent and important, you immediately start work on those tasks that are important but not urgent at the moment. The tasks that are important but not urgent are usually those tasks and activities that can contribute to your career in a meaningful way in the long term.

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