Guest Post by Kevin Toney
Are you a slave to your schedule, or do you feel overwhelmed by your endless list of “to do’s”? Here are a few tips that will help you in controlling your day with the Time Management Matrix so you can take back your schedule and focus on what’s most important – Controlling your day, rather than your day controlling you.
The daily prioritization meeting
Take charge of your day by starting with a prioritization meeting. Tell your day exactly how you want it to go. Don’t give it permission to dictate your actions.
At SurgeFront, we take control every morning by holding these 30-minute prioritization meetings, and it has made all the difference. To take your daily planning to the next level, here is a strong, proven time management method that will transform every day into a success.
Method 1: Time Management Matrix
The first method to use in this daily prioritization meeting is to create a Time Management Matrix as demonstrated by Stephen R. Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.¹ This exercise will require you to:
- Identify key goals for your organization
- Prioritize these goals by placing them in the appropriate quadrant
- Prioritize your daily plan so that it matches your prioritized goals
The matrix that you will use in order to do this exercise has four quadrants that are distinguished by levels of importance and urgency.
The first box will contain goals and tasks that are important and urgent. The second, goals and tasks that are very important to your company’s future but are not urgent. The third, goals and tasks that are urgent but not important. The fourth, goals, and tasks that are time wasters.
While creating the matrix, write down your company’s top short-term and long-term goal (these will be located in the 1st and 2nd quadrant respectively). Examples of the two goals could include understanding/empowering your target market, or expanding to a new location.
Once you have those big goals written down, distinguish which of today’s tasks align with each quadrant so that you can determine the priority of each task. Then your long list of tasks is completely prioritized!
*It is important to note that it might take more than thirty minutes to create the matrix, but the tool can be used to save time in future prioritization meetings.
One of the more misunderstood, but important, aspects to the Time Management Matrix is the importance of quadrant two. Although these goals and activities are not urgent, these are the most important to your company.
You must focus on the long term here. Yes, it does seem counter-intuitive, but that is because your day wants to control you by telling you that only the most urgent tasks are the most important. However, this is not the case.
Steven Pressfield once said, “The Principle of Priority states
(a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and
(b) you must do what’s important first.” Therefore, quadrant two has the most priority for your company, but quadrant one must not be ignored.
The last step in this planning process is to make sure that you block off calendar times to complete them. This step is often skipped over, but doing it will enable you to stay in control throughout your day. Then your meeting is over. It’s time to get to work!
You can become the master of your day by using Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix.
In order to most effectively use these this method, arrange a daily prioritization meeting at the beginning of the day. In the meeting, use the Time Management Matrix in order to separate tasks into different levels of priority.
The tasks that are most important and urgent should be located in the first quadrant. Then the tasks that are not urgent but are yet very important should be located in the second quadrant. Focus your time on completing those tasks before you do anything else..
What Do You Think? What strategies do you use to prioritize your day? Do you think a daily prioritization meeting is necessary? Why or why not?
Author Biography SurgeFront
Surgefront is a management consulting and training firm that specializes in revenue growth and growth management strategies. As a certified Teamwork.com trainer in the United States, SurgeFront’s cross-industry best practices drive adoption, utilization, and customization of Teamwork.com.
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¹ Covey, Stephen R. “The First Things First.” The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Print.
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Stephen Covey popularized the concept of a Time Management Matrix for prioritizing by advocating the use of four quadrants to determine the tasks you “need” to do and deciding what should be made a priority.
Covey is the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First
I came across this as I was studying what separated highly productive people from everyone else: how were they able to prioritize their work quickly, and get the most done?
Here’s a picture and a brief overview.
The Time Management Matrix, Diagram
- In Quadrant 1 (top left) we have important, urgent items – items that need to be dealt with immediately.
- In Quadrant 2 (top right) we have important, but not urgent items – items that are important but do not require your immediate attention, and need to be planned for. This quadrant is highlighted because Covey emphasizes this is the quadrant that we should focus on for long term achievement of goals
- In Quadrant 3 (bottom left) we have urgent, but unimportant items – items which should be minimized or eliminated. These are the time sucks, the “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” variety of tasks.
- In Quadrant 4 (bottom right) we have unimportant and also not urgent items – items that don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and also should be minimized or eliminated. These are often trivial time wasters
In addition to providing text examples, I’m going to have a little fun and illustrate items from each quadrant in the time management matrix using one of my favorite comics, XKCD.
Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent and Not Important
Clearly, not urgent, not important – and an obvious time waster. Other time wasters include:
- Mindless web browsing
- Too much television/channel surfing for the sake of channel surfing
Quadrant 3 – Urgent and Not Important
My favorite examples, though I could have picked out more –
Other “Urgent” tasks that add little to no value
- Phone calls that are off topic
- Email that you have to reply to right away or it loses value (“Do you want some donuts? I have some in my office!”)
Quadrant 2 – Not Urgent And Important
Your overall health is something you may take for granted today, and may not see urgency in dealing with it – but long term, we know it’s of supreme importance.
There are some other important, yet not urgent, things that fall into this quadrant as well:
- Reviewing your career path
- Maintaining relationships with family/friends
Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important
Perhaps not entirely rational, but at least her priorities are in order. Other examples:
- Family Emergencies
- Real, hard deadlines for important projects