Ever felt like you are just pacing through
life in a seemingly endless circle quelling one crisis after another? Do you find yourself spending
time on several workloads
only to end up feeling completely drained of energy and without accomplishing
anything of real significance?
If you can relate to any of the situations
mentioned above, then you are most likely confusing the urgent with the
important. Understanding the difference between what is urgent and what is
important is very critical and can go a long way in making your tasks less
cumbersome and your life much easier.
We live in a fast-paced world where we have
so much to do in so little time and missing deadlines is certainly not an
option. For you to be able to beat the stress and deliver on your job, you need to be properly
enlightened as regards what should be considered urgent and what should
be considered as important.
Even though we all aren’t faced with the
same opportunities and performing
the activities, we all still have the same 24 hours in a day. This means
we all have equal time to schedule our activities and equal time to complete
them as well. You may, however, wonder why some people are able to complete
more tasks in a day than others. The simple fact resides in their skill and
ability to manage time more efficiently than others.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of
the United States, President of Columbia University, a five-star general in the
United States Army and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during
World War II, accurately gave valuable insight about effective time management
by developing the Eisenhower matrix.
He is known for the famous quote “What is
important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
Eisenhower’s matrix is based on his Urgent – Important Principle or Decision
Principle. It helps in identifying the difference between what is urgent and
what is important.
Business thinker, Stephen Covey in his book
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” aptly employs a system that can help
you efficiently manage time. Covey helped popularize Eisenhower’s Decision
Principle by creating the system known as the time management matrix. The
matrix consists of four different quadrants that allow you to prioritize your
tasks according to their relative degree of importance and urgency.
The Eisenhower’s Matrix is labeled thus:
Urgent/Important: here goes
things like crises, deadlines, and problems
could consist of things like long-term projects planning, relationships, and
could be things like meetings, activities, and interruptions
here consists of time wasters, trivial tasks, and pleasant activities.
Important: these are responsibilities that
contribute to the accomplishment of your goals, values, and long-term mission,
whether professional or personal.
Urgent: these are responsibilities that
demand your immediate attention. These activities are usually tied securely to
the accomplishment of someone else’s goals. They are the ones we concentrate on
and failure to address them will result in immediate consequences.
To make use of Eisenhower’s Principle and
efficiently utilize the time management matrix, you will first need to draft a
list of all the activities and projects that you have to accomplish. Ensure
that every single activity that takes up your time is included in your list,
however unimportant it is.
Next, think about each of those activities
and insert them into any one of the four quadrants, according to their level of
importance and urgency. You may need to check your To-Do list or Action Program
if you have one already for the different activities that usually take up your
time, and put them in their respective quadrants. For example, urgent +
important = fire-fighting.
Non-urgent and non-important activities
deserve no place on your to-do list so you can cross that out. After you’re
done building your list and fitting each activity into the quadrant you believe
it belongs, you will then be able to quantify the importance and urgency of
every activity that you engage in.
According to Covey, you should seek to
spend as much time as possible on Q2 activities, which are non-urgent,
important tasks. The Q2 quadrant is the activities that provide you with
lasting happiness, fulfillment, and success. If, however, you are unable to
identify what activities are most important to you, it will be difficult to
know what things you should be spending more of your time on.
Another issue is that we all have the
inclination to focus primarily on the most urgent task at the moment. This is
naturally our default mode because we find it difficult to focus on an activity
unless it has a deadline looming over our heads.
Having a life’s mission and in-depth knowledge
of what your core values are will help you identify what belongs in your
non-urgent, important tasks list. It will also enable you to actively cultivate
and express the necessary self-discipline and willpower to restrain yourself
from latching unto whatever to-dos are most urgent.
Because non-urgent, important tasks are
usually not clamoring for our attention, we typically relegate them to the
backburner of our lives. Whenever they cross our minds again, we reassure
ourselves of getting back to them ‘someday’, after we have taken care of the
urgent stuff first.
Unfortunately, that ‘someday’ will never
come, because the reality is that, your schedule of urgent stuff will never
clear up. This is the mistake we all make because there will always be newer
urgent stuff that will require our attention. Thus we’ll end up neglecting the
non-urgent, important things that we’ve kept aside because our lives will
continually get busier as we get older, or at least until you retire.
In order to break away from this inherent
bias of being restricted from focusing on the non-urgent, important tasks, you
must learn to consciously live your life intentionally and proactively. You
have to decide within yourself that come rain or shine, you will make time for