As any architect will tell you, triangles are the most structurally sound and yet simplistic shape in the known universe. Pay close attention and you’re sure to spot a triangle or two in the high-rise buildings of a cityscape, in a bridge on a quiet country road, or in the Egyptian desert. They stand the test of time because they’re uncomplicated: they have a solid, wide base.
In his audio workshop “Focus – Achieving Your Highest Priorities”, Stephen Covey tells us how we can apply this simple principle to our daily time management.
- Begin with a firm foundation: identify your values. Each of us has a unique set of experiences, skills, passions, and talent to make our own positive mark in the world; and we all have the same 24 hours in each day. How we use those 24 hours combined with our unique skill sets and passions will determine the depth of our impact.Start by understanding what matters to you: what are you passionate about? How can you combine that passion with your expertise to clarify your life’s purpose? Let those answers inform the way you spend your time; and it won’t be long before you see the uniquely positive contribution only you can make.
When we’re clear on what’s really important to us, it allows us to prioritize the activities that move those values forward in a healthy way. Furthermore, it becomes the filter through which we consider how we spend our time.
- Create a weekly plan so that you live by your values. With your values clearly identified, consider all of the roles you play: spouse / partner, parent, employee, etc. What are your values and goals within each of these roles? What can you do to move you closer to each of these goals this week? What can you do to ensure you’re living your values within each of these roles this week?Now that you’ve identified what you could do, determine what you will do and determine the timeline by which you will do it. For example: within your role of employee, you may have a large presentation at work next month. You enjoy your job and you value your role in guiding the direction of the company. What could you do this week so that your presentation next month will be most effective?
Similarly, you want your loved ones to feel heard and loved. What will you do this week to be present for them?
- Create a daily plan that accomplishes the weekly goals. Now that you’re clear what you will do to achieve your goals and to live your values, it’s time to schedule. Though it may be tempting to plot out each hour of each day, it’s important to leave yourself some room for the unplanned. Consider filling only 50%-70% of your day with scheduled tasks or meetings, and leave the rest of your day open to tackling the unexpected.
By establishing your values as the base upon which you build your weeks and days, you’re ensuring that your schedule accurately reflects the things that matter most to you. By understanding your values and scheduling your week and your days around them, you’re sure to make the extraordinary impact only you can make.