By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

If sales of time management classes and books are any indicator, most people consider managing their time important. But managing time is often like grabbing a greased octopus, where do you start and how do you keep your grip? The truth of the matter is that most folks begin by trying to manage all the things in their lives – and it makes them losers before they even start.

Every one of us has too many events clamoring for our attention, and the key isn’t managing all of them – it’s eliminating those that shouldn’t be there. That’s right, you can’t begin with a plan for order, you have to begin with a sieve. And guess what? YOU had better be the one who decides what that sieve is going to filter out.

This “orderliness mistake” is made by 90% of the people who try to get a handle on their lives. They buy calendars, planners, sticky notes, and reminders. They spend hours learning the nuances of computer planning, but they never take the time FIRST to decide what is most important to them, actually deciding what’s going to get through that mesh and what isn’t.

Think about it a minute: family, marriage, self, career, today’s tasks – how many issues come pressing in on you from every one of these areas every day? Dozens? Hundreds? It’s a mess, and trying to put it all into order is both frustrating and hopeless. Your initial task HAS to be to find a way to limit the number of things you’re going to handle, and that means developing a plan. There are three “Need tos” to developing the right plan:


1) It needs to address the important areas in your life. What are they? It’s not hard to sit down and list them, and you’ll find that most of them have to do with your critical relationships.

2) It needs to take into account important things by category. What categories?
A) Things important things to me;
B) things important to other key people;
C) things important to my work.

3) It needs to recognize priority among those life areas. What’s that mean? Simply that some are more important than others OR that some need more work than others. Those with highest priority should get the most time allotted to them.

Once you’ve taken the half hour or so to develop these Needstas, you have suddenly opened up a whole new ability to yourself: the ability to Say No. You will still have the hundreds of issues coming into your life every day, but with this starter system you will know which are not important – those you should say “No” to. There’s more to it, of course, and it’s wise to use a planning system that will allow you to incorporate your Need tos into your daily and weekly planning. But this approach will get you started on the right foot, and you will find it much easier to know which issues SHOULD be handled in your life.