Is Your Daily Agenda Full Of Important or Urgent Things?
A while back I was talking with Tom Rhodes, business owner extraordinaire, and he began to tell me about a time management system where you prioritize your schedule and tasks in four different quadrants. Tom is a very intelligent person and he spoke about this like it was an old concept, a concept that I had not heard of. Which really surprised me because I have been a student of time management techniques for two decades. I began researching this system and found the source; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by Stephen Covey.
Covey and many others since have written that management of the important and the urgent are both needed for effective time management. The importance of an issue is the impact that resolving it will have on your overall performance and the urgency is the time by which action needs to be started so it can be resolved.
The grid below is a tool to help you classify objectives according to their importance and urgency.
Low Importance/Low Urgency –can be safely left with little or no impact on your performance.
High Importance/High Urgency – start work on them now.
Low Importance/High Urgency – many managers spend most of their time working on such issues. This is the biggest waste of discretionary time.
High Importance/Low Urgency – these have a tendency of staying on your ‘to do’ list for some time. The purpose of time management is to deal with these issues properly and therefore you should plan them in advance in your schedule.
As previously stated, Covey wrote on this topic in great detail in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People almost twenty years ago. How I missed it for so long I don’t know, but now that I have found it I have some issues with it. However, before I get to my issues I would like to make very clear that I would never consider writing an article contradicting Stephen Covey. He is well respected by most everyone, and everyone other than myself, has read his book.
As I stated above Covey has broken down the quadrants into two main sections; important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent. What really bothers me is that we would even consider having unimportant items in our schedule – whether they are urgent or not. My suggestion, and something that I put into practice weekly, is to delegate all the unimportant duties to people who will get the job done. Once this is done your schedule will only have important tasks and appointments; urgent or not.
Urgent items on your schedule require immediate attention. These are items that take over when they arise. For instance, my mother-in-law just telephone. She said her son just called and was taking one of his children to the emergency room because he has a fever of 105 degrees. He asked that she and his father come up there and join them. Because the son is a new father it was a request that was easily important and urgent. So, my mother-in-law dropped everything, changed their plans and drove to the hospital.
The goal is to work on the important and non-urgent tasks most of time because if the majority of the items in your schedule is like the above example you would probably have a nervous breakdown. How do you classify them? That is a very good question, thank you for asking.
Non-urgent items are usually planned beforehand. They could range from self-improvement time, relationship building, recreation, staff development, project completion, and the list could go on and on. In other words, important and non-urgent tasks have to do with results. Planning out your schedule in advance will eliminate many of the “urgent” issues you deal with week in and week out. It will also allow you to accomplish your dreams and goals.
To maximize your time you need to plan ahead. For instance, you should plan next week before this week ends. With this done, you will be able to determine ahead of time what is the most urgent without the added pressure of your feelings and emotions getting in the way.
Now that you know how to classify them, what do you classify? Tasks and appointments come from your purpose statement – even if you don’t have a purpose statement you have a purpose in life. To manage time effectively, you must have clear, explicit objectives and these must be prioritized. If you set priorities you will manage time more effectively – most of your time should be spent on high priority areas as these have the highest impact on your performance and effectiveness.
Therefore, when this week is coming to an end I challenge you to make a big plus sign on a sheet of copy of paper. Then prioritize your appointments and tasks in the four quadrants. After doing this you will know what you need to delegate, what is urgent, and what you will need to get done next week. If you do this each week, by year’s end I estimate that you will accomplish over ten times the amount that you would have without this time management tool.
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