Time Management and Prioritization are often topics of discussion in Performance Management and initiatives that are focused on enhancing productivity. But often productivity is unaffected.
Let us start with examining our process of doing To-Do Lists, Activity Logs and other time management tools. We start the day with listing out all the tasks that need to be handled during the day and keep some room to add new tasks that evolve as the day goes on. The focus is on completing as many tasks as possible.
Some people then have a process of prioritization that helps them to determine the order of the tasks. The parameters used vary for each person. However, the prioritized list of tasks does not seem to increase efficiency in people.
David Rock, in his book ‘Your Brain at Work’, has mentioned latest research on brain science that has finally revealed the answer to this conundrum.
David Rock states that in effective time management, there are 3 steps:
- Creating the list of tasks
- Putting them into buckets of Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 based on the complexity of the task
- Understanding ones energy levels during the day and performing the level of task based on the complexity
The last step is often overlooked. The Level 3 tasks often require the highest concentration and should be conducted when energy levels are high. This is because the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) of our brain handles the complex tasks and requires a lot of physical energy to do the processing. Level 1 are routine tasks, which have been done before and are stored in our brain and just needs to be recalled. This requires the lowest energy. Hence, Level 1 should be done at times when our energy is at a low.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Steven Covey
When we do not plan our tasks based on these principles, we tend to do the Level 1 tasks as we are able to complete it without too much effort and we are rewarded as we experience instant gratification. Planning our day using all 3 steps of time management gives you the highest likelihood of increased efficiency.
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – Steven Covey
Make the decision to prioritize your tasks based on both the complexity of your task as well as the energy levels needed to handle the task. More importantly, make the decision to follow what you have decided. This will take you a significantly higher level of functioning.