Time management tip: Know important from urgent

by Clive

My time management tip is that I break my list into urgent and important tasks.

With my list I firstly decide what tasks are 'important' and 'not important'.

Once I have this list then I divide them again into 'urgent' and 'not urgent'.

This leaves me with 4 lists and at the top of each list are the titles:
1 - both urgent and important
2 - urgent but not important
3 - important but not urgent
4 - neither important nor urgent

I make sure that I get through the first list. This is top priority and will cause me most stress if I don't get it done.

List 4 I never get around to and it doesn't matter - I just toss it.


Kell's reply: Thanks for your great post Clive.

The time management technique is a great one that Stephen Covey talks about in his book and one that President Eisenhower used (so it is sometime called the Eisenhower Method).

It can often be useful to think back over your work and determine which areas of the time management matrix you are spending your time in.

If you are spending your time in Crisis mode, doing things that are important and need to be done now, then it is likely that most of your day is going to full of stress.

Similarly, if you spend your time in Reactive mode, doing things that are not important but due now, then you are likely to feel frustrated that you are working hard but not really getting any traction on your key projects.

These has been plenty of research that has found that normal companies spend about 80% of their time in these two quadrants.

Interestingly, the research shows that top companies, companies that are ahead of the curve, actually spend less time in reactive mode and more time in the proactive mode (doing things that are important but have a long time frame).

So the take home message for good time management is to attempt to spend most of your time in the proactive space, while building crises time into your schedule. Alternatively, look for ways to reduce time on low impact activities.

Eric's comment: Can anyone give me an example of how you use the Eisenhower Method?

I understand the quadrant concept.

But how do you determine what is urgent or not?

Are there some questions you ask yourself or is there some criteria to go by?

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