Have you ever had one of those days where you accomplished nothing important despite your best intentions? The day of never ending constant interruptions, emails, phone calls, and texts that stole precious hours away from your main focus. We all have those days. As the years go by, I feel that time is the one thing I lack. It’s my most precious scarce commodity, and it’s time to get it back.
In the book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey references Dr. Stephen Covey’s time management matrix. Every task that we do each day can be categorized into one of four quadrants:
- Important and urgent
- Important but not urgent
- Not important but urgent
- Not important and not urgent
Items that fall in quadrant I and IV are easy to prioritize. It’s quadrant II and III that require more effort and thought. Let’s explore each of the quadrants in more detail.
Quadrant I items are required to make your business or life run. Time spent in this quadrant includes doing important day-to-day activities such as payroll, paying the electric bill, and delivering on your product or service promise. As a small business you often wear every hat, and it’s your job to turn off the lights as you leave the office. You can’t miss quadrant I items because they are imperative to your business. These are must do items.
Quadrant II items are important, but don’t need to get done right now. These include goal setting, exercise, prayer, date night, picking up the milk, planning your next vacation, and washing your car. You should still do these tasks because if you don’t they might move to quadrant I. Quadrant II are must do items.
Quadrant III items seem important because they’re urgent, but often times they’re a waste of time. Activities that fall into this category include responding to non-urgent text messages, e-mails, and twitter chats. Believe me, the text from your friend who sends you beautiful pictures of flowers every Monday at 10AM can wait until lunch. It’s best to delegate quadrant III items, if possible.
Quadrant IV items are a waste of time. They are the passive unproductive activities that suck the life out of your day. Time spent in this quadrant includes activities such as watching TV, posting personal updates on social media, and shopping during work hours. Spending too much time in quadrant IV will most likely lead to business ineffectiveness and may even lead to failure.
Managing your time by categorizing your tasks into the four quadrants will help you find the hours you lose each week. Once you know your quadrant I and II items, you can prioritize them even further on a to-do list. Devise a prioritization scheme so that you know what should be done first, second, third, and so forth. Then write the tasks in your planner or app. Some of the best apps I’ve found for task lists include Evernote, OneNote Mobile, Remember the Milk, and Cozi. What’s your favorite way to organize your time?