Improve your time management skills with the Urgent – Important matrix
Do you feel like you have to make one decision after another to please your boss or your team? Do others constantly interrupt you while you’re working? What do you do first – please the boss who says their work is important or do what’s urgent?
President D Eisenhower famously said “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Eisenhower recognised that we sometimes need to spend time on things that are important and urgent because these tasks require our immediate attention.
What’s important and urgent?
Important tasks contribute to achieving our goals.
Urgent tasks are reactive such as phone calls, emails and social media alerts.
The Urgent / Important Matrix is an excellent tool which can help us understand how we spend our time and how to prioritise tasks. When applied consistently, this is a great model to help make decisions efficiently and effectively. I’ve used this model to map longer term projects to daily plans. It’s incredibly versatile.
Important & Urgent Quadrant 1 is for the highest priority tasks that need doing now. You might be thinking, ‘this is the quadrant I need to spend the most of my time because the tasks are important and urgent’ but what’s actually happening here? If you spend most of your time in this quadrant, you’re probably firefighting, dealing with crisis after crisis with no time to work on your longer-term goals. Tasks in this quadrant shouldn’t be your first priority as they are less productive and drain your energy.
Important not Urgent Quadrant 2 is the place to be. Tasks are important but not urgent so you’re not firefighting. You’re productive, working in an efficient and effective way with time to plan activities and get things done properly so that tasks from quadrants 1 and 3 are less likely to disrupt your work.
Urgent not Important Quadrant 3 helps identify tasks that are getting in the way of being productive and distracting you from achieving your goals. Interruptions, dealing with phone calls and emails regularly appear here. When dealing with these tasks consider whether you can do them at another time by perhaps letting people know your availability to help them or delegate to someone else while you complete your tasks in Quadrant 2.
Not Urgent or Important Quadrant 4 is your opportunity to ask a difficult question… ‘Do I really need to do this task?’ Deleting / eliminating tasks can be uncomfortable because we like to be ‘busy’ and ‘do things’ but these tasks aren’t helping you achieve your goal so they’ve got to go.
- Take a few moments to think about which quadrant you spend most of your time.
- Use the blank bullet points to make the table your own
- Are you working in Quadrant 2 most of the time?
- If not, what could you do differently?
If you’d like help prioritising your time, why waste time working it out for yourself?
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