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Time Management: Prioritizing the Wrong Things

October 14, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Time Management

Armed with a well-considered and carefully planned To-Do list, we can all be good time managers – right? Well, for most people – No, this is not enough. Even the best thinking, planning and prioritizing will only be any good if we manage it well. For the most part, this therefore means that we need to think about our own behavior and actions on a constant basis, and learn to do two things – to frequently adjust and to delegate.

As the term implies, “adjusting” is the ability to shift your thinking or to switch your priorities when circumstances require that you are better-off doing so. In other words, we sometimes need to be flexible when we face distractions or unexpected events. Think of it this way; it is not the distracting event itself which is the problem (or even how frequently this may happen) but how we behave towards it each time that it occurs.

There are two approaches that can be taken when distractions occur.

Firstly, consider whether interruptions can be handled immediately or can be handled later when you have time to deal with an issue properly. By using Pareto’s 80/20 rule as a guide to action, this evaluation should ideally take only a few seconds and with practice, can be sensitively and assertively communicated to the interrupting person.

Secondly, you can start to schedule specific “flex” time during each day in which you let it be known that unexpected events can be discussed, or even idle “drop-in” chats may be welcome. By creating such planned blocks of time, you can then feel less guilty about concentrating on your priority tasks without interruption, which can even include working behind closed doors or turning off your phone (or putting it on silent), for example.

If greater flexibility to handle interruptions or distractions is one significant strategy to gain more control of your time, then learning to delegate is another.

Delegation, in the context of time management, is not about giving away lots of menial tasks to other team members to free up time for you. Instead, it is about the careful assessment of which tasks on your list can perhaps be better handled by others, thereby obtaining a better quality and time/or time-efficient result. In this respect, delegation is essentially a great “team” skill to develop, with each individual sharing work intelligently based on careful evaluation of the importance and urgency of each task to be completed.

The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Time Management Video Vignette Set.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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