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Personal Productivity – How To Achieve In Record-Breaking Time; Part Two

It is worth being aware that we will frequently face distractions, demands and requests from others when pursuing our goals. However, if we are to keep on track with our goals and effectively manage our time, it is critical to learn the skill of saying no. It is worth remembering that behind every no is a greater yes – you are simply saying yes to what is most meaningful to you when you say no to others. If we continually say yes to others requests and demands we can end up spending most of our time fulfilling others priorities and fail to prioritize what is truly important to us. When saying yes to others would mean saying no to you, choose instead to politely say no to outside requests and demands. For a more in-depth look at learning how to say no, please refer to June’s 2014 series ‘Sick of over-extending yourself? Learn how to say no.’


According to the Pareto Principle, created by an Italian economist of the same name, just twenty percent of our efforts can bring eighty percent of our rewards.


The trick is to recognise where we need to focus that critical twenty percent of our efforts. Simply put, we need to dedicate at least twenty percent of our time towards our important but not urgent activities. For most of us these non-urgent but important tasks are where our goals and projects which increase our efficiency lye.


In order to understand this concept more we need to examine how all of our activities and tasks are classified. According to Stephen R. Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ our activities and tasks can be from one of four main categories, these being:


  1. Urgent and important – E.g. Crises
  2. Non-urgent but important – E.g. Goals and implementing efficient systems at work
  3. Urgent but not important – E.g. Casual calls and some mail
  4. Non-urgent and not important – E.g. Watching TV


This insightful book asserts that the ultimate aim is to focus on number two, the non-urgent but important activities such as our goals and increasing efficiency at work. Most people tend to focus on the crises on number one, the urgent and important activities and then seek rest bite in number four, the non-urgent, not important activities such as watching TV. Stephen Covey states that to shift ourselves away from this crises / time wasting trap it is initially necessary to cut time from numbers three and four, and to use the additional time to focus on number two.


When at work section two activities could include introducing new systems which increase efficiency. In time these systems will reduce the time needed to be spent on the urgent and important matters, freeing you up to spend more time tackling non-urgent but important tasks. For example, introducing a new filing system which is more user-friendly and increases your efficiency at work or doing daily creative writing exercises in working towards the goal of becoming a novelist. These are all non-urgent but important activities will serve to improve your efficiency and make considerable progress on your goals.


Next week learn how to make your diary work for you!


Which are the main categories (1-4) that you spend most of your time on daily? How do you plan to focus more on 2, the non urgent but important tasks? Please comment and share your experiences with our community to gain insight, encouragement and support.




  1. Identify a list of three non-urgent but important activities or to do’s you would like to include into your weekly schedule.


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