Juggle Well – 5 (+5) Tips for Prioritizing and Managing Time – Part 1

How well do you juggle?  Take a moment to self-assess.

When I am interrupted it is easy to jump back into what I was working on.

1 (easy to go back) – 5 (difficult to jump back)

I am totally on top of my work, nothing ever falls off my plate.

1 (on top of it) – 5 (stuff falls off the plate)

I make a "to do" list and accomplish all of it in the timeframe I set.

1 (always done) – 5 (to do list keeps growing)

My priorities are clear and don’t shift on a whim or because of others.

1 (clear/steady) – 5 (not clear/ever changing)

Rating scale:
04 – 09 Master Juggler.  You can juggle with the best of them!
10 – 15 Juggler.  You can keep the balls in the air for long periods, but once in awhile they come crashing down.
16 – 20 Apprentice.  You may get the balls up in the air, but you still have a long way to go to keep them there.

Juggling well comes from a combination of being firm about examining what’s on your plate and establishing a solid foundation from which you are juggling.  Wherever you are on the scale, I hope you are able to take away something from these first 5 tips.  The additional (+5) tips will be in next month’s article.


#1 – Eliminate tolerations in your life
Tolerations = distractions – things you put up with – energy drainers
When you begin to handle these things you will free up time and energy to devote to other items that are a higher priority.
Take a hard look at what’s really “zapping” your energy.  You might find that it’s something broken and in need of repair.  You may find that it’s getting a voicemail from a certain someone and knowing that you have to face them eventually. 
Take a second to think of one toleration you currently have.
Ask yourself – What would it look like to be free of this toleration?
What will it take for you to get there?
Here are a couple of things to consider and think about as you examine your tolerations:
•    Understand that putting up with things is not useful to anyone.
•    Make a list of 5 things you are tolerating at home or at work.
•    Take the actions necessary to eliminate those items.
•    Understand that you cannot juggle well when you are tolerating things.
•    Stop complaining: instead, make a strong request.


#2 – Put tasks where they belong
You’ve heard the phrase, "time is money", right?  Do you actively apply it to your own work situation and what’s on your plate?
I want to tell you a story about a client of mine.  He’s given me permission to use this, but I’m going to change his name to Joe for the sake of his privacy.  So Joe came to me because he felt like he wasn’t growing in his job, but the amount of activity he was doing was definitely growing – growing out of control.  As a very senior member of his management team, he knew something had to give or he would probably be looked over the next time a promotional opportunity was available.  I quickly realized in working with Joe that he was doing all of his own administrative tasks.  He was proud that he didn’t need an assistant and touted that he saved the company money by not having one.  ….let’s look at #3 for the rest of the story


#3 – Know where your time goes
We explored why Joe’s schedule was out of control and what it would take to juggle well.  We found that approximately 43% of Joe’s time was spent on tasks that could be handled by someone other than him and the majority of that was administrative.  To make a long story short – It took time, but Joe hired an assistant. As he built trust and established a relationship with his assistant he began to move over tasks that he recognized that he didn’t have to do on his own.  It wasn’t too long before Joe began to realize that he had more time to spend with customers and on sales.  He didn’t seem so crazy and he was beginning to see business growth.  Ultimately his delegation paid off to the tune of 2 million in additional sales and Joe is now in review for a GM position for one of the company’s locations.
So in thinking about putting tasks where they belong:

  • First, assess your work, and all the things you do; (Take a minute and think about one item)
  • Next, look at the tasks you do and the skill, knowledge, education and ability truly needed to complete the task; (Now apply this to the item you’ve thought about)
  • Then, identify if it requires that you do it yourself or if someone else may be capable of the doing the work.
    (So what do you think, with the item you’ve considered, is it something you need to keep doing or is it possible that someone else may be able to do it? )

Joe still responds to his own email but, his assistant scans them, sorts and prioritizes them so that he can spend his time answering the emails instead of taking the time to weed through the ones that aren’t relevant or that his assistant could handle for him.
Ask yourself what it would look like to put tasks where they belong.  Where would you focus? 
What steps could you take to move in this direction?

#4 – Ask, "What must get done today?"
Did you ever hear someone say that “everything” is top priority? Do you ever say it?  If those people worked for Jack Welch, king of rate-and-rank, I am positive that they would begin to see things differently.  Prioritization is the ability to place value on each item as they relate to each other.  I once heard someone describe their method for prioritization in this way: 

I have 10 – 100 ton bricks hanging over my head – they initially appear equal, but as I quickly evaluate the situation I realize that 2 of them are dangling by a thread, 3 are hanging by 6 threads, and the rest seem to be on pretty solid cable at the moment.  I have to focus on the 2 danglers before they come crashing down on me.

While prioritization may not always be so life threatening, it certainly can help you in making sure things are done as they need to be.  To help yourself prioritize use the following questions regarding what you have going on:

  • Is there a drop dead date to the task at hand?; what is it?; have I left myself enough time to complete the task?
  • Is it something I want to do vs. something I need to do or must do?
  • Where does each task fall in relation to one another?  For example, one task may be to complete your taxes by April 15th; another task may be to buy your mom a gift for Mother’s day (May 9th).  While it may be a lot more fun to go shopping, as a matter of priority taxes come first.

#5 – Never assume the level of urgency
Questions from #07 continued…..

  • Have I assumed the due date on something I was asked to do?  Did I specifically ask the person when they need it back or completed? 

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because a request is made it means it needs to be done immediately.  When you find yourself creating that assumption, step back and check it out.  Sometimes it may be something that must get done immediately and other times you’ll find that the urgency is much less than you would have assumed.

Come back next month for an additional (+5) tips on prioritizing and managing time.


2 Responses to “Juggle Well – 5 (+5) Tips for Prioritizing and Managing Time – Part 1”

  1. Gail Sussman Miller Says:

    Great tips.. and the stories hit home the truth. Love how well you write and the results you get for your clients. Powerful.

  2. Juggle Well – 5 Tips for Prioritizing and Managing Time – Part 2 « Coach Effect's Blog Says:

    […] Coach Effect's Blog Executive Coaching & Leadership Development Focus « Juggle Well – 5 (+5) Tips for Prioritizing and Managing Time – Part 1 […]

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