Today we finish discussing the last two quadrants from Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Matrix.
Now, on to quadrant III: these are tasks imposed on us by others. They occasionally become necessary to somebody, but not necessarily to your problem. We all know how friendly the guy next door gets when his fax machine breaks down, or how insistent door-to-door salesmen can be when they haven’t made their quota. When people start knocking on the door with all their little emergencies for you to handle, it is important to remember and live by the old adage: “Failure to plan on your part does not necessarily create a crisis on mine.”
We’re all hit with this. It’s important to realize that although you can’t help everyone, it is a valuable and important use of time to help some people, sometimes. Actually, it’s worth your time to help out as often as you can. In this way, you’ll develop relationships of trust and respect, and trust relationships are always an asset.
The key is to make sure you do what you can and not what you can’t. If you have the time, energy, and resources to help someone out, then by all means, help! If taking time away from the most important task at hand seriously injures your venture, then don’t do it. You need to achieve this important balance through practice and planning.
Finally, quadrant IV—the fluffy, fun quadrant IV, activities that are neither urgent nor important. Examples would be useless, mindless, endless video games and television shows. Don’t get me wrong; I’m up for some good TV shows or a fun game every once in a while, but if you’ve just finished 19 straight hours of Seinfeld reruns, you’ve got a problem. You are not producing, growing, or creating. You are simply existing.
Recreation is important and, when used for the purpose of recharging yourself and spending time with family and loved ones, it can often fit into quadrant II. Watch yourself, though; it’s easy to get sucked in.
So how do you identify quadrant IV at the office? Check your chat applications; do you chat with other people hourly? How meaningful or useful are those conversations to your strategy? Do you spend a lot of time online without needing to? I’ve even caught people watching DVDs or playing video games during “productivity time.” Statistically, Covey states that most people spend all their time in crisis mode, switching between quadrants I and III. The real power comes when you’re able to spend 80 percent of your time in quadrant II, 5 percent in quadrant I, and 15 percent in quadrant III.
As you find yourself scurrying around the office in pursuit of your busy work, keep these thoughts in mind and develop the discipline to say to yourself: “Back off here. This is a waste of time.” This ability is extremely powerful.
Finally, you must remember that you possess limited time and resources with which to accomplish your goals. Identify critical tasks and organize yourself around them. If you organize yourself, you will be able to lead a team of people confidently, competently, and consistently. Your team is obligated to develop their own critical reasoning so that they can make judgment calls as well, but it all starts with you.
Obviously, using this strategy requires prep work. I’ve found, however, that it doesn’t necessarily need to take a lot of time. The clearer you are with what you want to accomplish, the more quickly you can put a strategy in place and develop it within your team.
Porter’s Points – Urgent and Important
- When you are continually approached with quadrant III activities, learn to say “no.” Try something like, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but this time I am going to have to pass.”
- Gather your thoughts. Take time to record your goals and the critical milestones involved in achieving them.
- Prioritize a series of tasks necessary to implement your strategy. Timing is essential in priorities. For example, you may need to finish developing a product before creating the marketing materials so that your marketing reflects the product as accurately as possible.
- Choose three important things to do today–and do them. If you have time for others, great; if you run out of time, rest assured that they will be there for you tomorrow. Mountains are climbed one step at a time.