How often do we get caught up with all the little stuff, and then never get the big stuff – the truly important stuff – done?
Schedule your big rocks first.
This means that when you plan your day (or your week or month), start off by figuring out when you will do the biggest most time-consuming items that are usually most important. I’m a college professor, so my big rocks are usually conducting research. Research demands big blocks of quiet time.
Then schedule your little rocks.
Little rocks can be scheduled around the big rocks. These are smaller tasks, like writing and grading exams, etc. Even smaller rocks (“pebbles,” if you will) are things like phone calls and writing letters. These come last.
This is not to say that you should do the big rocks first, then smaller rocks, then pebbles. No. Rather, when you plan your schedule, drop the big rocks into your schedule first. Figure out exactly when you are going to work on them. Then, find places for the smaller rocks, Finally, fit in the pebbles.
Otherwise, the tendency is to get the little stuff over with and then discover that you don’t have enough time left for the big rocks. Then – Surprise! – the big rocks – which are often the most important tasks – never get done.
One tip: People are very understanding about your need to focus on and complete big rocks. When I’m working on research, I often hide with my door locked and telephone ringer off. If someone intercepts with a question or problem, I explain that “I’m working on research right now, I’ll get back to you.” They understand.