At week’s end, one of these two employees has a boss who’s furious. Guess which one:

  • Jane had a list of 10 things she wanted to get done. She completed eight of them and feels pretty good about herself.
  • Bill had a list of 10 things he wanted to do and finished five of them, and he too feels he had a productive week.

The obvious answer is Bill because he only got half his work done, whereas Jane got 80% done. But the obvious answer is wrong. Jane’s boss thinks Jane has a major time management problem and is furious with her.

This wasn’t a fair test because we left out a key detail. Jane did not complete the one task that was MOST important for her boss. Bill completed all of the tasks his boss labeled “high priority.”

Now you see why time management isn’t about time. It’s about something else altogether, and you’ve probably guessed what it is: Priority management.

The truth is, the best time management system in the world can’t create more hours in the day. And while there may be some tricks that can help you work more efficiently — for example, handling a piece of paper only once, keeping your files organized and so on — they really only nibble around the edges of the problem.

In this day and age, most of us simply have too much to do. So you have to make some hard choices about where you invest your limited time. And for most of us, the MOST important priorities are the BOSS’s priorities. Keep up with those, and nobody will accuse you of having poor time management skills.

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