As students begin a new semester … I started to write this as a note of encouragement to my junior database students to be helpful in their development as future business leaders. But then, I thought this would be helpful to others. So I modified it for a mass audience and placed it here for your thought. I hope it inspires you and causes you to think.
Time Management vs. Priority Management
Many people cconfuse these terms. Conflate them. Much like confusing Project Management vs. Task Management. In discussions with undergraduate students, I sometimes chat about how many 18-22 year old people have Project Management and Time Management as skills. A 20yo has competence in project management? Then you ask them what are the components of the triple constraint that a project manager must consider … a different look will appear on their face.
But what about Time Management vs. Priority Management. Imagine this interview scenario …
Interviewer: “So, do you believe that you are an effective planner?”
Candidate: “Yes, the night before my class, I always look at what is due.”
Interviewer: “Can you give me another example?”
Candidate: “I don’t look at the class schedule, I just show up on time. Is that what you are looking for?”
Hmmm, how do you believe that work for you? Or worse, the prospective candidate communicates a story that is not an accurate appraisal (an exaggeration) of how they approach their work.
The Current Situation
Over the last couple of years, I have seen a noticeable decline in one facet of how students approach their educational journey. Priority Management. Not Time Management.
Time Management manages minutes and hours. Very short horizon (one day). Usually to what you are doing right now.
Priority Management is completely different and needs to be done before Time Management. For a shorter time frame (two or four-week horizon) than for full-featured Project Management. Establishing three items:
1) Outcome or result.
2) Due or milestone date.
3) Effort or resources required.
And then working “backwards” to determine the steps (tasks and assignments to others) that need to be accomplished.
But there are other influences that affect effective priority management. Analyzing other life responsibilities that have a “demand” or influence on your time. For students, it’s … texting, social media, sports, activities, social time, working out and yes, sleeping (or power naps as they call them haha).
Notice I did not say “Time Management”. There is a difference. Time management manages minutes and hours. In order manage your time, you need to first manage your priorities. That’s the area where the rubber meets the road. Then, once you decide your priorities … and adjust accordingly, then you can determine your day in hours and minutes.
A Professor’s Approach to Priority Management
A lot of things. But specifically. On the weekend, I review the upcoming week’s schedule for my classes and appointments. Prepare. Print down slides, assignments, solutions, lecture notes. Have a plan for the week. My horizon, short-term, is the week. But I am already looking at 2-3 weeks out at a higher level. If I know that I have other life responsibilities that may interfere with those needs, I have to adjust. If attending a hockey game is an important “rest” for me after a hard week, then maybe I need to put off something else (social media, cleaning the living room, mowing the grass) so that I can still attend the game.
A Students’ Approach to Priority Management
Read the syllabus and schedule.
If the professor did a thorough job, it is detailed, specific and formatted professionally … it is to your benefit to read and understand it. It is the course’s project plan. Will it change? Maybe. Probably. All projects do. Snow storms, sickness, etc. However, a mediocre, but defined plan that is executed well is better than no plan executed on the fly.
By implementing something similar that I discussed as a professor. With one additional thought. If you wait until Monday to look at what is due on Tuesday, you may not understand it. Or not “scope out” (visualize in your mind what is needed) the time necessary to complete it. Maybe this assignment requires more than just a few more hours to create an effective, successful submission!
I get MANY emails a few hours before an assignment is due asking (fill in the blank). How do you think that looks?
What Would Be More Successful?
Implement the thoughts above. Then, sometime during the class period …
Professor: “Any questions?” … instead students are thinking how fast can I make it out the door 🙂 …
Student: Have a question prepared! “Professor _____, could you explain _____ on assignment _____.“
I understand there are bad weeks. Things go wrong that are unintentional or could not be planned for. Point taken! But if you can plan for 95% of planned tasks, your success will happen!
If you want to read a great article that reinforces what I have discussed here in more detail, click here.
After reading this … will you integrate this into their inner dialogue? Your workday. So that your inner dialogue says … “I should try to implement this approach to manage and lead myself differently.”