Time Management

There is a model developed by Stephen Covey called “The Time Management Matrix” or commonly referred to as “The Four Quadrant Model”.  It is explained in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Let me give you a brief overview.


Take out a piece of paper and fold it into four equal boxes.

Label the top left box #1.  This is the Urgent/Important box.  In this box you are always fighting fires and dealing with emergencies.  The person who stays in this box believes everything that comes across his desk (or at least his co-workers believe this) must be dealt with now and it is important.  When you are constantly called to put out fires this puts you in a reactive rather than proactive position. As you gain experience, you will know what tasks can be deferred.  Calmly explain to the requester why his need can wait.

The top right box #2 is the Not Urgent/Important box.  This is the quality time box.  Ideally you want to spend most of your time in this top right box.  This means you are focusing on things that are important but not urgent.  This is the ideal and it takes planning and clarity of what is important.  This box works well in your personal and professional life.  In this box you are focusing on quality time.  It is important to live and work in this quadrant as much as possible.  I know professionals who never enter this quadrant; they are harried, stressed and unhappy people that nobody wants to be around.  You need to PLAN to spend time in this quadrant.  You need to schedule your day, your week and set up systems.  Focus on how to get better organized and use technology to your advantage.  This small time investment will help you be successful in the long run. You can’t spend all your time here but with sufficient planning you can prevent many problems that arise and keep you in Quadrant #2, which will lead to higher performance and success.

The bottom left box #3 is the Urgent/Not Important boxThis is the box that pulls you off track with many distractions.  The phone, email, texts, tweets and people stopping by your office pull you off track.  How could you limit this from happening?  I might suggest that you learn to set boundaries. The activities in this section are deceiving as you may think they are important.  By responding to the so-called “Urgent” matters you are being taken away from what is truly important. Use a different account for your personal mail, text and tweets to stay focused on work.

The bottom right box #4 is the Not Urgent/Not Important box.  This is the time wasting box.  We spend more time in this quadrant then we would like to admit.  This may occur when we are waiting in line or driving, but you can use this time wisely.  For example, when you find an article you want or need to read cut it out and place it in a folder.  Store the folder in your bag and when you find yourself waiting you have something productive to do.  If you live in a metropolitan area there are times you are stuck in traffic.  A book on tape can help make the time more productive.

To spend more time in quadrant two you must PLAN.   Choose a task, use the timer on your phone set for 45 minutes, turn off all distractions (phone, email, etc.) and give yourself permission to work uninterrupted.

The more time you spend in Quadrant Two the less time you will spend in the others and be more productive.

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