Do you often have to be in multiple places at the same time? Do you rarely check off more than two to three things on your daily to-do list? Are you always rushing to meet deadlines? Answering ‘yes’ could signal a need to reevaluate how you prioritize your time.

Most people manage their time by treating each priority as if it’s of equal weight, says Jill Johnson, president of Johnson Consulting Services. Instead, break your time into three different categories: routine activities, project-oriented activities and crisis situations. Each has a different impact on your productivity and your daily focus, as we’ll explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Neglecting Routines Creates Chaos. Routine activities involve responsibilities you can anticipate. These activities are automatic or have regular occurring deadlines, such as a month-end report. Unfortunately, many people procrastinate on assignments that have a routine deadline, then they rush to pull together the needed information. Waiting until the last minute increases the risk of missing critical elements, making errors or delivering lesser-quality work. It also adds pressure and unnecessary stress.

Routine activities are not surprises—don’t treat them as such. Carve out the time you need in your schedule and make sure it adequately reflects the time necessary for completing these assignments. Set up alerts with a reminder of your impending deadlines. Then send alert notices to others who have critical information or essential insight you will need. If the routine activity is something you only engage in periodically, create cheat sheets with screenshots and notes to yourself on previous issues and how you solved them. These notes can be huge time-savers the next time you complete this activity.

Managing Projects Requires A Precise Plan. Projects are often complex activities with a defined expectation for deliverables or a date of completion such as a major event. With projects, there are multiple moving parts and deadlines.

The challenge with most projects is they often have long time frames. This allows procrastination of key responsibilities, because the completion date is perceived to be far into the future It may be tempting to focus on day-to-day fires and not worry about the project until there is an urgent rush to meet a deadline.

Effectively managing your project-oriented time requires developing and following a clearly established plan. Determine who needs to be involved and clarify their roles and responsibilities. Internal deadlines and direct responsibilities must be clearly communicated. Divide the project into smaller components and manageable parts. Engaging in interim checkpoints on a periodic basis allows you to stay up to date on the progress being made. These checkpoints provide the opportunity to determine if you have adequate resources deployed in the right areas so you can meet the deadline.

Expect The Unexpected. When a crisis occurs, your entire focus shifts to resolving the problem or the aftermath of an unexpected event.

The biggest challenge when dealing with a crisis is you often do not have advanced warning It is difficult to calmly establish essential priorities when your adrenaline has kicked in and everyone is in a highly emotional or rushed state of mind. A caution: make sure you are not treating routine activities or missed project deadlines as a crisis.

Prepare a disaster plan for the types of crises your enterprise is most likely to experience. When you have the luxury to prepare in advance, you and your team are more likely to have a clearer frame of mind to develop an action plan for emergencies.

When you begin to appropriately categorize demands on your time, you can shift your focus toward optimizing your priorities and getting your desired results.

Source: Jill Johnson, president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, is a highly accomplished speaker, award-winning management consultant and author of Compounding Your Confidence. She helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has had an impact on nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. Johnson has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.