Priorities imply choice; you get to make a choice in almost everything you do. Every choice involves tradeoffs: when you choose to do something, it implies that you choose not do something else.
Before being sucked into doing anything, ask, “Is this the best use of my time?”
Another way to think about this is in terms of “opportunity cost.” Everything in life has an opportunity cost. Whenever you take up one opportunity, you forfeit another. When you choose to go to a movie with a friend, it means you aren’t going to the library to work on a research paper that’s due next week. When you choose to spend this month’s savings on new furniture, it means you can’t add to your retirement account. So, when making decisions about anything, keep opportunity costs in mind. Be aware of what you’re giving up.
One of the most important choices you make—often subconsciously—is how you use your time, which is your most important resource. Before doing anything, be aware of what you are giving up; decide whether the benefits are worth the time you’re investing in the task.
The Nagging “5-5-5” Questions
Poor time management often has less to do with your packed schedule than with your indecisive, unorganized, or undisciplined mind. To improve your life, stop wasting time on things that don’t matter. Have a little voice in your head that constantly nags you by asking the following “5-5-5” questions:
- Is this a priority?
- Will this matter in 5 days?
- Will this matter in 5 months?
- Will this matter in 5 years?
The “5-5-5” questions will prevent you from being caught up in little tasks and trivialities that aren’t truly important.
Idea for Impact: Be time conscious; constantly ask yourself, “Is this time-effective?”
According to my world’s shortest course on time management, “There are countless things you can do. There are numerous things you want to do. There are several things others expect you to do. There are many things you think you are supposed to do. However, there are only a few things that you must do. Focus on those and avoid the rest.”
As I mentioned in my article “don’t say ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’,” don’t be vulnerable enough to be pulled along by forces that are beyond your control. Be accommodating when you can and assertive when you must. Be intentional about how you choose to use our time. Your life depends on it.