How To Understand Your Order & Know HOW To Do It – So That You’ll Be More Effective, Not Just Efficient
Learning how to prioritize your tasks using a day planner is the most important element of time management after you master the first rule of effective goal setting – knowing what to do.
There is an inevitable order to Nature. Whether you like it or not, that order must be followed and obeyed.
- You cannot construct the second and third floors of a building without laying a foundation and finishing the ground floor.
- You cannot reap a rich harvest without first planting the seed and nurturing the sapling.
- You cannot run and jump before learning how to sit, stand and then walk.
By knowing the order of things, and respecting the sequence to be followed, you will accomplish more with less effort, and in a shorter time span than if you’re always mindlessly busy and driven by the urge to greater efficiency. Prioritize your day planner to save hours of precious time.
That is an essential difference between the Time Management Tao approach and conventional thinking about how to manage time. It is grounded in a concept called Zugwang and Wuwei.
What Are Zugwang and Wuwei?
Zugwang is a technical chess term which means (in German) “the obligation to move”. In chess, when it is your turn to play, you cannot choose to pass. You must move one piece – even if it means you have no good moves, and even if any move you make will be worse than doing nothing!
But Life is not like that. You are never forced to make a move. Zug is optional. If it is better to do nothing, then you don’t have to act.
Wuwei, in Chinese, means ‘doing nothing’.
There’s an art to Wuwei that has a deep impact on your style of time management. Wuwei doesn’t mean total inaction. It means that you understand the order of things, and then act according to it. It means you practice inaction for all the superfluous or irrelevant things that typically crowd and clutter your day.
In the Tao style of goal setting, you learned how to find your center and identify what things you must get done. By now striving to understand the order in which they must be done, you free yourself to focus exclusively on the right things – without wasting precious time, effort and resources on other stuff.
Wuwei makes you incredibly powerful. Like water dripping constantly on a boulder will eventually wear down and break the rock, your relentless persistence on the most relevant tasks will bear fruit over time.
How To Achieve More Without Doing More
Here is an interesting story, with a powerful moral.
A man was gardening. He planted some bamboo shoots. Watered them daily. Watched them grow slowly.
He was in a hurry, this young man. And soon, he became impatient. He wanted his garden to grow faster. One morning, he came up with an idea.
He pulled each of his plants out of the soil by an inch!
All day long, he was happy because they now looked as if they had grown bigger. But by evening, all of them wilted. In a few more days, all the plants had died.
There’s a time management lesson in this story. Interfering does not help.
When you have done the work, it is important to stand back – and do nothing. That’s what Wuwei means. Getting out of the way. Letting events unfold, efforts take root, processes mature and ripen.
This simple concept in managing time is easy to understand – but difficult to adopt and embrace. We worry a lot. Often about the wrong things. We are tempted to intervene, without first considering if action is really productive.
Understanding the order of things and acquiring fine judgment about the impact of our intervention can help you become more effective – while saving time and working less.
Get Your Timing Right
Good timing is critical to time management. And it is also linked to the order of things. As a practical example, it is wasteful to water your garden soon after a heavy rain, or light a candle when it is bright daylight.
So before rushing to act, take time to plan your work, and think about your timing.
Effective time management begins from the very first step you take. Since you’ve already learned how to know your center and discover the important actions to focus upon, you must now ask yourself if the time is right to do it. If it is, act swiftly and with purpose. If not, wait until it is.
For perfect harmony, you must strike a balance between two things:
- the urge to act
- the need to wait
Stillness and action are two sides of the same coin. By learning how to slow down and take stock, you’ll gain unique perspective into your priorities… and that will make you infinitely more effective and productive.
When you consciously slow down and pause to think about what you are doing, you’ll expand your awareness, grow more calm, lower expectations, and make wise decisions. Then, you can set about implementing those decisions efficiently.
Prioritize With Your Day Planner
Your day is divided into sections, each with its own specific activities. Many of these sections are scheduled into your day planner, with some flexibility built into them. Others are random and unplanned.
It is more important to get into the habit of completing all tasks that you have listed in your day planner than to rigidly adhere to an externally imposed schedule. At the same time, a totally unplanned day can lead to imbalance and work related stress, laziness and lack of productivity.
You can solve this problem when you prioritize tasks before adding them to your day planner.
A Simple Guide to Prioritize Work
The easiest way to prioritize a task on your to do list is by:
- how much time you have available for it
- how important it is to your goals
- how serious are the consequences of not doing it
But beware of pitfalls in going down this route. When you make profitability the yardstick by which you measure or prioritize all your work, you may become more efficient – yet end up dissatisfied, frustrated and unhappy.
It is difficult to put something last on your day planner (or even keep it off) when others depend upon you, or when the task itself is critical for a major project. The Tao way of managing time, however, is to evaluate work in the bigger context of your higher purpose, and prioritize it accordingly.
When you face conflict or difficulty in setting a priority for your tasks, you must rely upon some time management tools for help. Let’s discuss a few of them.
Paired Comparison Analysis – This helps with decisions involving unclear or subjective criteria. You start by picking the first two items on your list, and deciding which one is more important. Then you repeat the exercise with the next item on your list, working your way down it to identify the highest priority tasks.
Grid Analysis – It is a method helpful for choices involving multiple factors. An Action Priority Matrix can help you diagrammatically plot the value of each task against the time and effort it will take, to quickly spot the highest efficiency items to focus on first.
Urgent/Important Matrix – This groups tasks by their relative urgency and importance. The danger lies in misinterpreting urgent tasks as being important.
Ansoff and Boston matrices – These are of some help in providing “rule of thumb” guides to setting your priorities.
Use Your Day Planner To Organize
Once you successfully prioritize the activities you must focus on, use your day planner to schedule them into your working hours. Research has clearly shown that tasks that are not assigned a particular time frame and duration are the ones that tend to get postponed, or prolonged beyond reasonable limits. This means you cannot get your to-do list completed, which causes stress, anxiety and frustration.
All this can be avoided if you just:
- create your to do list in a day planner
- assign each task a particular time slot in your day
- set an estimated duration for completing it
- discipline yourself to stick to this schedule
By now, you are well and truly along the path to mastering Time Management Tao.
- You know how to set goals that are meaningful and let you fulfill your purpose.
- You are aware of the order of things, and realize the secret of getting more done without having to do more when you prioritize your day planner.
- There’s just one last thing left – and that’s actually getting things done. We’ll discuss it in the next section.