Like us, you’ve probably seen the Eisenhower matrix several times in your life and never used it. It is possible that you may have tried and given up after numerous failed attempts.
Managing time is the single most powerful source of stress in our life and yet, paradoxically, it is something that we seem to be rather miserable at as a species.
At RainKraft, we have a good reason for this- we believe that as human beings, we cannot manage what is essentially a finite resource. Instead, what we can manage is our own energy and our alignment with the things we need to and want to do.
When we were looking for tools and techniques to manage our time better, and also to recommend to our readers, we went back to an old but well-respected classic.
The Eisenhower grid was first invented by none other than the man who would become the 34th president of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower served with the Allied Forces during World War II and understood better than anyone the need to take better decisions in next to no time at all. Hence, he designed the Urgent vs. Important matrix to prioritise what needed to be done first.
Curiously enough, in a war situation, he instinctively understood that important tasks always take precedence over the urgent ones- a philosophy that the matrix really gets us to follow.
The Urgent-Important matrix has four quadrants- urgent and important, urgent but not important, important and not urgent, not important and not urgent.
For any given day, make a list of tasks that fall under each of these categories. The basic idea is:
For Urgent And Important Activities:
There’s nothing to be done here except to put out the fire immediately. Interestingly, this is the breaking point for many managers even today. The fires take precedence over everything else and leave next to no time to plan for the future. This is also a complaint we hear most commonly from leadership teams.
There are two ways to address items in this section. One, if it is a crisis situation, just deal with it. Overanalysing such a situation does no good and wastes even more time. Good managers schedule at least a couple of hours each day, and usually an entire day each week, as ‘free’ time to accommodate exactly these situations.
The second issue is, of course, when things have been put off for too long. This can be because of a general sense of being swamped with work, or not having prepared for a task in advance even when you know it is due. Your main aim here should be to move these tasks, eventually, into the important but not urgent grid.
For Important But Not Urgent Activities:
Schedule time. Over a period of time, you need to gain a fair sense of how soon a repetitive task is due. You also need to be able to judge how long a project might take based on the availability of different stakeholders.
In general, tasks in this list can be scheduled well in advance and executed before they become urgent. You can work as a team to achieve this objective. Needless to say, a job that is done with ample time left over is usually better than one that you scramble to complete.
For Urgent And Unimportant Activities:
This is usually the toughest grid to fill. The very fact that it feels urgent almost intuitively makes it important, and the brain refuses to accept the conundrum. However, these activities drain your time and energy and help you achieve nothing of personal value.
The key to completing these tasks is effective delegation. You should, over time, be able to build a core team that handles these tasks while you focus more effectively on the two previous grids. It isn’t to say that these are lowly jobs, but your energy is better utilised elsewhere. As a practice exercise, spend time sorting these tasks every day until you get better at identifying what is urgent but unimportant for you to achieve your specific goals.
For Tasks That Are Neither Urgent Nor Important:
Drop them! These are most often the chores we take on just to fill time and feel useful on days when it seems like there’s nothing to do. Perhaps the best example of this activity is picking up the phone at random just because a free minute has become available.
Some of us even take on household chores that could easily be delegated, or refuse to hire people even when we know we need them in the near future. But basically, tasks in this quadrant are bad habits. The best thing we can do to save time on them is to simply drop them.
Specifically for smartphone use, it helps to set the phone in a different room while you work, or to set strict limits on app usage. Over time, you will discover just how much time you save by being away from the things that don’t serve you, instead using this time to develop a healthy habit.
Make it a habit to draw this simple grid on a sheet of paper and observe where your time when over the previous week. Patterns will emerge which you can address.
What are your tips to #managingtime and what are your challenges?