How Values, Priorities, and Time Management are Connected

If you consistently feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished on your to-do list, then you need to set aside time in your schedule to examine your values and priorities. Understanding how and what you spend your time on is essential for living a productive life and reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Although it may not always seem like it, you’re in control of how you spend (and waste) your time. But, don’t be too hard on yourself. Learning how to effectively manage your time takes, well, time.

You can’t expect to overhaul your time management skills overnight. The pathway to becoming truly productive involves tracking your time, developing new habits, and most importantly, assessing your values and priorities. The first step to checking the most critical tasks off your to-do list is knowing what those tasks are.

Furthermore, to effectively manage your time, you need to identify the behaviors and patterns that are holding you back. Only then will you be able to determine which time-tracking tools and techniques are the best fit for you.

Why It’s Motivating to Decide How to Spend Your Time

It’s not uncommon for people to experience periods in their lives where everything feels out of control. Many people have felt this way recently after being forced to shift from their normal office environment to a remote work setup. During these times, it’s vital to focus on the things you can control. In both your personal and professional life, that frequently boils down to how you spend your time.

Making decisions regarding how you spend your time can be extremely motivating because it puts you back in the driver’s seat. Whether you decide to cancel your weekly coffee date with a toxic friend, go to bed early so you have the energy to hit the gym in the morning, or end a contract with a low-paying client so you can look for higher-paying work, making choices around how you spend your time is the first step toward making bigger changes in your life.

Creating a schedule that works for you and serves your bigger goals is habit-forming in and of itself. When you start to recognize time as a limited resource, you’re forced to cut out the excess time-consumers. The more time you take back for meaningful tasks and activities, the more motivated you will feel. Often, getting things done is the most powerful catalyst for getting even more done.

How to Set Daily Priorities and Goals

Once you commit to thinking realistically about your time and recognizing it as a limited resource, it will be clear to you that you need to prioritize. This fundamental awareness will help you create your schedule and organize your tasks so that you are effectively using your time to reach your goals.

A practical strategy for prioritizing your tasks is utilizing the Eisenhower Matrix, which is a method for assigning priority values to various tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix allows you to organize your tasks into four categories. 

The first category, “urgent and vital,” is for tasks that require your immediate attention. Next, the “important, but not urgent” category is for tasks that you can schedule for later. The third category, “urgent, but not important,” is for tasks that you can delegate to someone else. Finally, the “neither urgent nor essential” category is for tasks that you can eliminate entirely if you wish since they don’t serve your overarching goals.

By using the Eisenhower Matrix, you can identify your highest priorities and focus your efforts on completing those tasks. Then, once those items are checked off your to-do list, you can move on to less important tasks. Of course, even with the Eisenhower Matrix strategy, you will still need to monitor the use of your time and make adjustments. Just because a task is a top priority one week doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

Productivity Tips to Get You Started

While a strategy such as using the Eisenhower Matrix is extremely effective for identifying values and priorities, you may need additional help managing your time. Here are a few productivity tips that are effective nearly universally: 

First, you need to find your peak performance time so you can start listening to your internal clock. To do this, break your day into three or four time slots. Think morning, mid-morning, afternoon, and evening. Rank these time slots from your most to least productive. Knowing when you do your best work will help you organize a schedule that maximizes your productivity.

Next, schedule protected time for yourself. Once you know your peak performance time, arrange your calendar so that you can dedicate those hours to your most important projects. For example, if you know you do your best work in the morning, don’t schedule a dentist’s appointment for 10 a.m.

Sometimes, protecting your time can be challenging. If your spouse, children, or other people you live with are used to having unfettered access to your time, setting boundaries will take adjustment. This can be complicated by narcissistic personality traits and behavior patterns. It’s important to be patient with establishing new systems, while also holding firm to giving yourself what you need to succeed.

Lastly, look for ways to reduce distractions. As part of scheduling protected time for yourself, you don’t want interruptions while you’re working. Consider using an app like Freedom or Mindful Browsing to block social media sites and other time-wasters during critical work hours. Just like your digital workspace, your physical workspace should be as distraction-free as possible. Design a productive workspace stocked with essential supplies, including a professional background for virtual meetings, that encourages you to focus and offers options for different moods.

Try Out Time-Tracking Techniques and Tools

In addition to those productivity tips, you might want to consider testing out various time-tracking techniques and tools. The type of technique you decide to use will ultimately depend on your own preference and personality.

For example, if you’re a serial multitasker, then try setting aside specific blocks of time to focus on a single task. The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals which are separated by five-minute breaks. This method also works well for procrastinators since it encourages you to simply get started (try using 15-minute intervals).

Are you someone who regularly underestimates how long a task will take you? While you can block out extra time for each task, it’s equally important to review past assignments, time logs, and calendars to analyze how long you’ve needed to complete similar tasks. It can also be helpful to talk to your colleagues or peers to find out how long they need for such tasks.

If you identify as a perfectionist, then your high standards could be causing you to waste time. Continuing down this road could eventually lead to burnout, which would mean you wouldn’t be able to get anything done at all. Before that happens, reevaluate your standards to see if they are helping you to achieve your goals. You might find that they’re getting in your way, and if that is the case, commit to relaxing your self-limiting standards.

In terms of time-tracking tools, consider your business needs when choosing a time clock app. Digital time tracking solutions can make all the difference for staying organized, especially when various team members or departments are collaborating. Businesses that are primarily digital should consider automating employee time clocking for projecting tracking and managing general attendance.

Regardless of which time-tracking tool or technique you use, knowing your values and priorities is essential for effective time management that moves you toward your professional and personal goals. Understanding the interconnectedness between values, priorities, and time management is crucial for finding balance in your life and properly utilizing your resources. Until scientists figure out how to add a 25th hour to the day, you must make choices regarding how you spend your time. The simplest and most authentic way to do that is by letting your values guide you.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors on a regular basis. Indiana loves experiencing new things and sharing with others what she learns through her writing. You can chat with Indiana on twitter @IndianaLee3