The most valuable time management skill is recognizing the important tasks and ignoring the rest. I first observed it early in my consulting career, at Arthur Andersen & Co in New York, after a meeting with my manager and our client, the Vice President of a large energy company. After the client left, my manager and I reviewed the meeting and planned our tasks. I mentioned one of the client’s requests from my notes and asked, “How are we going to do this?” I was shocked by his reply, “Don’t worry about that.”

“What do you mean?” I replied, “He specifically asked us to do that.”

“I know, but trust me, It’ll go away.” He was right. That task was never mentioned again and the client was entirely pleased with our work.

Not taking on everything you could do or want to do is the only way to reserve resources for the key activities.