Does the phrase ‘make time’ drive you as crazy as it does me? 

It’s the one phrase that was likely to make me lose my temper more than any other.  I was exhausted, under pressure from all angles, I felt like nobody understood everything that I had to deal with and then ‘Well if it’s important you’ll have to make time’.

Yeah.  Sure.  I’ll just get out my Tardis and my handy assistant and go and make time shall I?  Oh wait, not even Doctor Who can do that and he is a Time Lord!  (Also: not real.  Sadly.)

People who told me to make time were likely to drive me crazy with their smug cool, calm collectedness.  I was in the midst of a whirlwind of exhaustion, stress, responsibility, external and internal pressure and now I was told to do more? 

What I have come to realize over the last year is that making time isn’t about time at all.  It is the action of prioritisation.  If something is important it should be dealt with before unimportant tasks, more so again if it is both important and urgent.

But how do you work out what is important or urgent when you’re exhausted, stressed and frankly everything is important or urgent?

First you need to be clear on your goals and dreams.  If your task furthers these goals (or sometimes doesn’t actively impede them) then they are important to you.  This is something that can take some work after years of running to stand still and you may need some help working out what is truly important to you as distinguished from the goals we internalize because others think they are good for us.

Secondly my favourite tip for prioritizing and delegating work tasks is the Eisenhower Matrix.

Draw a simple cross in the middle of your page and label as follows: Important/Not important across the top margin, Not urgent/Urgent written up the left hand side of the box. 

Decision matrix in action!

Decision matrix in action!

Assign your tasks to the relevant box depending on how urgent/important they are.  Anything in the top left box, get done immediately.  If necessary, break the problem into smaller tasks with parts to be delegated.  This is the box that is going to let you sleep soundly at night once it’s clear.  Below that are the tasks that you should schedule; get your diary and book them in and then, most importantly, do not worry about them.  They can wait until their diary entry comes around.

On the right hand side are my favourite tasks – on the top row are tasks you are going to delegate out, whether it’s hired help (such as a cleaner, virtual assistant) or part of your team at work or at home (boyfriends and husbands I am looking at you!).  The bottom right box is the list that we will do when, and only when, everything else is done.  Give serious consideration to the tasks in this box though – how many of them are self-imposed problems that really don’t need your time and energy?  If so, offload them on to someone else or delete them all together.

The best time to get this done is in five minutes at the beginning of each day.  It’s a tool I encourage my clients to use because it reinforces daily what is important to you and help build your focus and perspective; all important and urgent things when you’re suffering from a problem with your resilience. 

Why not put this into effect for one week and let me know how much time and mental energy it has freed up for you? I’ve even created a free download for you to print and use to your heart’s content – get it free here.