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Time Management: How Do You Choose Your Next Task?

It's not just about the priority...

So many people struggle with time management. A few weeks ago, I was honored to be asked to give a talk at Bartlett's Farm, for their "Farm Talk" series. The talk was titled "Is it time management, or is it life management?"

We talked about lot of things, but one of the points I made brought a number of "aha!s"

When choosing your next task, the priority of the task is NOT the only thing to consider. Of course, priority is extremely important, but there are two other things that will help you be your most effectvie in choosing the next task.

They are:
1. Priority
2. Time available
3. Energy level

We've already talked about why you should consider a task's priority. The next consideration is the time you have available. If you have a high priority task that will take up to a half hour, but you have only ten minutes before your meeting, it is rather silly to start that half hour task. This doesn't mean that you won't get to your half hour task, it just means that you'll do it at a different part of your day.

The third is energy level. We all have peaks and valleys in our energy levels during the day. No one is on all cylinders all day long. Once you know when your high and low energy levels are, it is useful to incorporate that knowledge in deciding when to work on your high priority tasks.

If you are a "morning person," then your best bet is to carve out morning time for that important project - the one that requires your best thinking. Conversely, scheduling mundane tasks during your peak energy is a waste of useful time.

I am definitely a morning person. Because of that, I avoid scheudling meetings during my peak energy. That time is when I can accomplish my most important tasks faster and more effectively (or at least I think so!)

Yes, working in priority order is the target. And when you combine it with an assessment of the time you have and your energy level, you have a formula that works!

Marsha Egan is CEO of, and author of “Inbox Detox and The Habit of Email Excellence” (Acanthus, 2009) And for more tips, visit