The most important skill you can learn and practice is to put first things first.
Failure to discriminate about what's important has created much time loss and even lots of suffering.
The hurrier and hurrier I go, the behinder and behinder I get...
Whoever is in the suffering arena hasn't taken care of things that will prevent suffering. (Duh!)
And those who suffer let urgency and pressures outrank handling what is important for our peace of mind, for our productivity, and for how we can keep ourselves well-balanced and happy. And generally it is true that if we are in the suffering arena, we have failed to differentiate as to importance with regard to dangers and threats - we react as if everything were important enough to warrant extreme and/or urgent reaction.
In great time management, we almost always only spend time on the important and we don't let the "tyranny of the urgent" run the show. (We also say "no" alot.) We don't "major in minors", as Jim Rohn and/or Zig Ziglar say.
I recommend that you live the 80-20 Life, where you focus on the top productive items only and are relatively ruthless about cutting out or cutting down the rest. Read the Time Management Overall piece on the 80-20 site.
Rob Rutherford and Stephen Covey both talk about the four quadrants of time:
Urgent Not urgent
Important I II
Not important III IV
As noted in the reference, we spend our lives reacting to what is urgent, as that demands our time, and living in Quadrant IV, where we can avoid discomfort and while away our time in what is not important (and therefore not uncomfortable).
QUADRANT II - HIGH IMPORTANCE, NO URGENCY
But the real payoff lies in Quadrant II, which demands no attention on its own, but which is the most productive quadrant of them all.
In Quadrant II, we address what is most important first. The test of whether or not we are doing this shows up in the ultimate proof: results. A person who utilizes this quadrant no longer spends most of his/her time putting out fires (dealing with problems), because he/she has worked ahead of time on putting in place what will work and what will prevent problems. That person also spends less energy, while getting more good results in life. The person is healthier and feels the most in command and control of his/her life, feeling great peace of mind and experiencing true happiness.
It is not possible to get the results one really wants in life without being a Quadrant II person. Heed this advice well, for it will make all the difference in your life. The Quad II person is the proactive person, who does not wait for some miracle, or circumstances, or others to make his/her life better.
NOTE THE RESULTS YOU'RE GETTING, AS A REFLECTION OF DOING QUADRANT II OR NOT
"Everything seems so urgent, things just come up all the time, so I don't have time to work on my filing, my budget, my problems." According to the law of cause and effect, this is your "effect" and the cause is clearly not dealing with the causes that create these effects.
A person who doesn't implement Quadrant II "gets to" deal with symptoms over and over and over and over, often making him/herself so busy that he/she cannotdeal with causes and things of importance, and consequently his/her life is a mess, with constant stress.
This is what is needed:
1. Acknowledge you are an "urgentaholic"
2. Acknowledge that you are getting the symptoms and effects you get to repeat
over and over because you're not completing your "preparation" steps.
3. Commit to inserting Quadrant II activities into your schedule on purpose with
appointments with yourself.
BIG ROCKS VERSUS PARKINSON'S LAW
While Parkinson's Law says "the space will get filled up with what is most easily available" (Quadrant III and IV), the "Big Rocks First" approach means we are operating in reverse of Parkinson's by intentionally putting the big important things in there, first - and then doing the small stuff later. View this video (but do read First Things First when you get a chance): Do The Big Rocks First. (If not available, enter the term in the search box in YouTube.)
MY KEY REASON FOR SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
We can choose to work in our business, in which case it runs us, or work on our business. My reason for success is that I set aside time to ask how can I improve my business, who could help me, and what do I need to learn. By inserting that into my schedule on a regular tickle basis, I was able to make progress much quicker and surmount prior years by a wide margin.
The same idea goes for one's life. You can just live in your life or you can also work on your life - but to do that you must insert it into the schedule. (See the whole point of life: Life Value Productivity.) In both, you must study what the biggest success factors are and then do them. (See Success section.)
BE CLEAR, QUADRANT II INCLUDES PREPARATION
Quadrant II includes preparing ahead of time for avoiding possible problems and setting things up so that they work in the future. Yes, you spend time TODAY for something that is an investment in the future, but it has huge payoffs in the future. And one of the biggest payoffs is that life works geometrically better, accumulating and multiplying happiness and things that work in life. (If you don't do this, then things do not improve or improve hardly at all.)
Some relevant and related articles:
The Formula For Overwhelm - Note that it involves discriminating as to true importance.
Set Up Systems That Help
Consider using the FranklinCovey Time Management System, as it builds in a weekly look at scheduling-in what is truly important, before other things.
First Things First, Stephen Covey - Really helps you to discriminate and identify what is important. Top importance in reading, as it will save you huge amounts of time.