We all have those moments in our working life, where we constantly feel the strain of deadlines, maybe press send and receive on the laptop and wham fifty emails arrive, or we check our faithful Blackberry and it is full of new requirements of our time. Then a manager strolls in and wants more of your time, then the phone rings and well you get the picture we all get the picture it is everyday life… or is it?
The reality is you can read many theories of how you should manage your time and space at work and home. There are some universal principles that can guide you in controlling your work flow that is for sure. One such principle comes from author Stephen Covey’s bestselling business book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” originally published in 1989 but still available and a useful publication.
The matrix shows you how to schedule your week according to what’s most important to you and what will have the most meaningful results. It is about challenging your own thought process and allotting the correct time and process.
You will see with this article a copy of the the matrix, that is taken from a book Covey co-authored later, called “First Things First”.
The two main criteria to evaluate yours tasks are urgency alongside importance. The urgent activities require immediate attention and then important ones contribute to your mission, values, and goals that you have set. You should focus most of your energy on activities that are important but non-urgent — i.e. the activities that fall in Quadrant II. According to the author, Quadrant II includes relationship-building, recognizing new opportunities, planning, and prevention.
You should stay out of Quadrant I, which is filled primarily with crises and then you have Quadrant III, which includes interruptions and unnecessary meetings; and Quadrant IV, which includes busy work and timewasters of which there will be many. It does sounds simple, but the problem is that naturally we are likely to heads towards urgent activities, regardless of importance because it is human nature and we feel immediately that the fire needs putting out. Just imagine an email arrives, the phone is ringing, or a colleague stops at your desk for a chat! Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action. They’re often popular with others. They’re usually right in front of us. And often they are pleasant, easy, fun to do. But so often they are unimportant! Quadrant II activities, on the other hand, don’t have the same immediate consequences, so we’re less likely to attend to them.
I would say the main thing you should take from this small article is that sometimes you need to take a step back so you can see the disparity between how you should spend your time and how you are spending your time. Then you can make a plan to adjust your schedule so that you allot more time and energy to the activities that will actually produce long-term results, instead of the ones that will produce results five minutes later.
As a consequence, you will end up with fewer Quadrant I activities to deal with. Your crises and problems would shrink to manageable proportions because you would be thinking ahead, working on the roots, doing the preventive things that keep situations from developing into crises in the first place.
Then you can use the time you save to plan ahead for big projects that will truly make a difference for you and your team.