Pitchrate | ABC's of Time Management

or log in with your favorite social network:

NOTE: If you don't have a profile and want to sign up with your social network, please click the appropriate icon in the sign up box!

Peter Turla

When Peter Turla says, "Time management is not rocket science,"he knows what he is talking about. He was a rocket designer on the original NASA team that designed the highly successful Saturn 5 Rocket that put a man on the moon. While with NASA, Peter helped design many of the critical elements u...

Category of Expertise:

Contents is empty


The TimeMan

User Type:



04/13/2011 10:35pm
ABC's of Time Management

Question: Peter Turla, you're a time management expert who advises us to set priorities on the things we want to get done, but don’t most of us routinely set priorities on our activities?

Answer: Yes, most people do set priorities, but they give high priority to the wrong things—to items that are quick and easy to get done.

Question: So what’s the right way to set priorities?

Answer: The key is to ask, “How does this activity fit in with my long term objectives and where I want to go with a particular project or with my career or my life?” Often we lose track of the overall direction we should take and we just ask, “What is something fast and easy that I can get done so I can cross it off my To-do List?" or "What is the most urgent, the next most urgent, and what can wait?” The items we think can wait are often the things that would have a significant payoff for us, perhaps not immediately, but in the future. Unfortunately those are the items that get put on the back burner. Important things are not always urgent and urgent things are not always important.

Question: What is the most common mistake people make when they set priorities?

Answer: They delay long-range planning in place of solving immediate, but insignificant problems. People who do this find that their entire day is cluttered with a lot of small projects and small decisions. The things that sometimes don’t get done are major items, such as long-range planning and important backburner projects. Don't confuse activity with accomplishment. Many people concentrate on what I call “ant stomping” when they should concentrate on “elephant hunting.” When you focus on stomping ants you confuse activity with accomplishment. You’re going for the small insignificant tasks that are easy to do. They can be done quickly, so you give yourself the illusion that you’re really accomplishing a lot, when in actuality you’re getting further and further behind because you’re overlooking the elephant hunting.

Question: Can you be more specific about what you mean by elephant hunting?
Answer: Elephant hunting means to pursue significant projects that have long-term payoffs for you. If you’re busy stomping ants all day long, you might not even be aware that you’re totally ignoring some of your elephants.
Question: What kind of activities do you define as “stomping on ants”?
Answer: Constantly being busy dealing with minor interruptions, for example, or spending time reading lots of relatively unimportant emails. If these kinds of activities distract you and keep you from working on higher payoff activities, you’re “stomping ants.”

Question: But there are urgent matters that have to be attended to. Doesn’t devoting time to taking the long-range view distract from such day-to-day demands?
Answer: Solving problems is “fire fighting.” You’d be better off in the long run figuring out how to prevent fires in the first place instead of constantly reacting to problems. Preventing fires puts us ahead of the game—and saves us time. If people tell me, “I don’t have time to plan properly,” I tell them that, if you don’t have time to plan, that’s all the more reason you should make the time because planning actually creates more time for you in the long run. If you don’t take time to get organized, plan, and develop good time-management habits, you’ll always be playing the catch up game. Lack of planning is a big waste of time. Many people have “train wrecks” that happen in slow motion. The wreck is easily predictable—and preventable—if you take time to look way down the track.

Question: What if it’s hard to plan your day because lots of unexpected things always come up?
Answer: If that’s the case,


time management, time management expert
Please note: Expert must be credited by name when an article is reprinted in part or in full.

Share with your colleagues, friends or anyone

comments on this article

Powered by: www.creativform.com