How To Avoid A Day Of Whack-A-Mole

When a thousand things are thrown at you each day it can become overwhelming if you don't learn how to put first things first.  We need to constantly be filtering and sorting the demands and requests on our time.  Yet before you can begin to determine what is a priority and what is not, you need know your primary purpose(s) for the day, the week, the year.  Once you know this you can ask yourself these questions as you prioritize your day:

  • Does this support or enhance my purpose for today/week/year?
  • Is this a crisis or emergency?
  • Is this preparing for an important deadline?
  • Does this support relationship development?
  • Does this support team/leadership development?

If you answer no to any of the above questions then add the item to your to-do list knowing you will get to it eventually.  Just make sure that "eventually" actually comes and is timely.  If you put these demands off for too long then you will lose trust from those who forged the necessity to begin with.  Whatever they were asking of you had some kind of meaning to them, so don't dismiss it or forget about it.  Opposite of that, if you give equal attention to every task that appears to be urgent, your day will be consumed with non-important emergencies and you will constantly feel like you are playing whack-a-mole.  There is a disclaimer here -- sometimes when you first start at an organization and are learning the people, the systems, and the daily, you may be functioning more in the whack-a-mole state of mind until you can structure things in a way that fits with your beliefs and vision.  But don't live here.  If you do you will get burnt out and be functioning in a constantly stressed out condition.

Dwight Eisenhower created a Time Management Matrix that Stephen Covey later shared in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  When using this quadrant your daily activities can be broken down into 4 quadrants.

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Anything that support or enhances your purpose, is an actual emergency, sustains or builds a relationship within your organization, or sustains or builds you as a professional would definitely fall within the "urgent and important" quadrant.  This is where the magic happens, yet it is the quadrant that is most often neglected.

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Although not everything that consumes our day can be planned, if we start by planning out what we do know it helps our frame of mind as we filter through the several tasks that come across our radar.  I've shared a day planner for you to use as you set the tone for your day.

Try adopting this way of thinking.  Filter tasks and prioritize your day.  Prior to doing something evaluate it by asking the five questions above.  In time, you will feel more in control of your day and you will realize your goals more swiftly than ever before.