Many Competing Priorities? Why rigid time-management will NEVER bring “balance” to your life
Several times in my life I’ve attempted to sit down and write out an ideal weekly schedule to live by…divided into 15min increments. You know the drill…Monday: wake-up, read the Bible, pray, make breakfast, eat breakfast… It was as if life was a weight-balance scale and if I could arrange all the competing priorities perfectly my life would have perfect balance. Yet, every time I developed the perfect schedule I was never able to execute.
Here’s the problem I discovered. Those weights…those competing priorities…they don’t weigh the same from week to week, or even day-to-day. Wives get pregnant (how does that happen?). Children develop bad habits that have to be addressed (another mystery). Projects have deadlines. Relationships have needy moments. The weight of each of these competing priorities is constantly shifting. You can’t expect to set a balanced scale and never tend it again. To have constant balance, your scale must be adjustable.
Here are a two ideas to help your time-management system respond to this reality:
1.) Do your daily-planning…weekly: Many people develop a daily task list. That’s a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t allow for big-picture thinking. With many competing priorities, you’ll need to set aside a time each week to reflect on which priorities need your attention and when you’re going to be able to focus on them. With daily planning alone, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. Here are some important components of your weekly planning session:
- THINK. Rigid time-management systems tell us where to be when so we don’t have to think about it. But your weekly planning should have thinking time built-in so you can use common sense to help balance your life. Family doing great, but you’re about to lose your job because of your performance? I might get crucified for saying this, but maybe you should drop family movie night and work late on Thursday!
- VALUES. Use your weekly planning time to remind yourself of what’s important to you. Make sure your time-management choices reflect those values. There is nothing that will drive you more insane than knowing that you’re not living by your values.
- RELATIONSHIPS. Don’t just think in tasks. Think in relationships. Do you have a list of relationships that are most important to you? Look at each person on your list and ask yourself what you would need to do this week to enhance that relationship. Then, schedule it in.
- BIG PROJECTS. Most really important things can’t be accomplished in a day…or even in a week. Break that big project down and ask yourself what you need to accomplish this week to move things forward.
- TASKS. There are always little things that have to get thrown in. Schedule a few of these each day and knock them out after you finish your big items.
2.) Look for Opportunities and jump on them (be flexible): Another problem with rigid time-management systems is that we don’t know everything. If we knew everything that was going to happen in our lives and in the lives of people around us, maybe we could build a schedule that would make the most of every opportunity. Reality, though, is that unknown opportunities spring up everyday that can help us advance our professional and relational goals. (i.e. – Thursday isn’t my day to pick the kids up from school, but it looks like I will win some real relational points with my wife if I can go pick them up today. A minor adjustment to my routine and a great relational win!) If we look for those and respond to them, we can take full advantage of each day. We must be willing to deviate from our schedule to jump on the unexpected.
Do you have competing priorities? How do you manage it all?