Jim Rohn is quoted as saying, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Too true, right ! The question is how do high achievers seem to manage their time exceptionally well? We all get the same 24 hours in each day and yet some people achieve so much more with their time than others. The answer lies (partly) in good time management.
Spending your day stressed and in a frenzy of activity often achieves very little. Good time management helps you spot the things which are important (really important) and action them accordingly. Working smarter not harder also helps you experience ‘flow’, psychologist Csíkszentmihályi’s state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity.
The model I want to introduce to you is called the Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a decision-making model focused on time management. The method was used by former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later made popular by businessman and author Stephen Covey.
As with all great tools it is relatively straightforward to use. According to the model we can classify any task that comes across our desk as having levels of urgency and importance. This results in a matrix (a 2×2) being formed with 4 quadrants. Once the tasks are plotted onto the matrix this will give you an idea of what actions you should take.
Tasks which are both important and urgent should be actioned immediately – DO IT.
Tasks that are urgent but not important should be delegated – DELEGATE IT.
Tasks that are important but not urgent we can schedule for later – DECIDE.
Tasks which are neither important or urgent can be left for now – DELETE IT.
The DO IT Box
Remember these are important and urgent at the same time. Worth asking yourself IF these tasks are actually important before they go into this box, if you are sure that they are then that’s fine. Examples might include a family emergency, a high value order from a key customer or a mission critical failure. If something should be in this box then it needs to be done immediately, everything else is moved aside and your focus is on this task until complete.
The DELEGATE Box
If we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of tasks that we do are urgent but not important. This is the box of outsourcing, delegating or automating. Emails back and forth can suck a lot of time here, especially as they seem urgent (they might even be labelled as urgent) but are they important? Can they wait? If you have the resources delegate these tasks to someone else.
The DECIDE Box
This box is also called the Schedule box. This is where some of the most important things in your life live. Tasks here are as important as the ones in the DO IT Box but not as urgent. Often good planning in this area leads to less urgent and important tasks appearing out of nowhere. You will notice that tasks put here will slip over time (as more urgent tasks take over your focus) so they should be put on the calendar and given a deadline. This kind of makes it urgent and can be used as a motivator to complete them.
The DELETE IT Box
These are the tasks which aren’t worth anyone’s time. You’ll be better off if you can eliminate these tasks as much as possible.
The Eisenhower Matrix
Using the matrix is a matter of using the matrix : ) by that I mean try and take time during your day to recognise each what you’re doing and think, is what i’m doing urgent? Or important? Which box would this task fall into?
Following that it’s a matter of treating the tasks how the model wants you to. For instance, if you use to-do lists you can categorise the tasks on your list to match the Eisenhower Matrix. That way you shouldn’t spend too much time on things that aren’t urgent or important.
There are limitations to this model. It’s only based on two factors (urgency and importance) and clearly there are other things to consider in work/life. These could be the complexity of the task or amount of effort/investment required to complete it. I’d also add that life is not about becoming the most efficient problem solving machine… we need to leave space in all this doing things we enjoy, make sure you stop and smell the flowers.