I vividly remember one of the first I’ll call it self help books I read, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and then his subsequent work, First Things First.
This was all pretty groundbreaking for me, taught to work hard, then work hard, and well, keep going and well, you know the rest.
“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.” Whoa.
Well this weekend I was dusting off some materials on time management, so the words and principles of Covey were front and center. And it was interesting to think that the concept of time management, the inherent practices and challenges have always been less about managing your time it’s always been about managing yourself.
And this is the biggest challenge to us each day. Not only as leaders, or employees working hard to make a difference, but also as human beings. How are we spending our time and are we spending time in a way aligned with our goals, priorities, purpose and values.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a graphical tool used to prioritize tasks by ranking them on two key attributes: Importance and Urgency. The Eisenhower Matrix was derived from a quote attributed to former U.S. leader Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Over 3 decades later in his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey repackaged Eisenhower’s insights into a simple tool to prioritize tasks, now known as the Eisenhower Matrix. This framework for prioritization helps you combat the urgency addition while making progress on important goals.
The addiction to urgency:
Now that you know…what can you do?
1. Track your time. For a day, for a week. Look for patterns. Assess your level of self-awareness and your subsequent ability to choose on purpose. This is critical to making changes, you need to be aware of what your current practices and challenges are to make even incremental changes.
2. Spend some quality time considering what belongs in Q2 for you. What goals do you have (personal or professional), or development do you need to be more effective? If you want to be more proactive and who doesn’t, think about what you would do with time to spend in Q2.
3. If you’re coaching others and they are coming to you with problems and no solutions, spend time coaching them out of Q3. Meaning they are relying on your, they’re dependent on you to do the work or fix the problem or provide direction (and maybe they need to be more autonomous?). Again, keeping track of these requests you receive in Q3 will help you to be a more targeted and effective coach.
4. Be mindful of Q4. There are times when doing mindless things is great. We need to decompress. Certain activities give us diminishing returns when used excessively. This is about immediate gratification, which can leave us feeling guilty and unfulfilled.