That said, if you truly are already happy with how you are using your time and getting the most out of your 168 hours a week, this blog is probably not one that will be of much benefit to you. On the other hand, if you think that you could use your time better than you currently are, you may want to continue reading.
Over the years, I’ve learned about and used various time management systems but as of this time, one has risen above the rest for me. Perhaps you will find it to be of value also. It is the ‘Four Quadrants’ method that was introduced to me by Stephen Covey in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
In the illustration above…
· Q1 (Quadrant 1) represents activities that you spend time on that are both urgent and important
· Q2, activities that are not urgent but important
· Q3, activities that seem urgent but not important
· Q4, activities that are neither urgent or important
Quadrant 1 – Activities that are Important and Urgent
Q1 is the quadrant of CRISIS and STRESS. This quadrant is where most people unwittingly spend a lot of their time... TOO MUCH TIME. Q1 may be referred to as the quadrant of necessity and contains the tasks that are urgent and important. These are the tasks you have to do or else you will face negative consequences. Usually these are deadline driven and/or time sensitive. On a daily basis, it is inevitable that you will do tasks that fall in Q1. The key is to being able to manage these.
Q1 tasks include:
▪ Dealing with recurring problems
▪ Getting your car (equipment) fixed because it hasn’t been properly maintained
▪ Last minute changes
▪ Tasks that have deadlines
▪ Trying to catch up because you are running late
If you feel like you are behind the 8-Ball and feeling lots of anxiety, it is a sign that you are spending too much time in this quadrant. You are just doing the things that are crisis oriented. The question is, “How can I get out of this rat race? How can I prevent these kinds of things from even happening? Hint, shift to investing more time in prevention by developing long-term solutions (see Q2).
Quadrant 2 – Important and Not Urgent
Q2 is the quadrant of PREVENTION. This is THE quadrant where you want to invest most of your time. You may question this because these tasks are not urgent. While that’s true, they are all about prevention of future crisis. Q2 tasks should be designed to prevent potential Q1 tasks from ever happening. Tasks in Q2 should be in direct alignment with your vision and lead you to where you desire to be down the road. They are things you want to achieve in the big picture. Here are a few examples of quadrant two tasks:
· Designing and implementing systems to prevent future crisis at work and home. This is what I needed to do in order to do less ‘firefighting’ at work.
· Scheduling some quiet time to refresh your spiritual and emotional well-being
· Spending time with your family and friends
· Developing and following a budget
· Taking classes outside your job to advance your career
Everyone’s goals and dreams are different. What might be a Q2 task for me might not be for you. Also, do you see that the tasks are non-urgent? This might seem counterintuitive at first. A lot of times we associate things that have a sense of urgency as being important, but that isn’t the case. Anything that benefits you in the long run could be considered in Q2.
Quadrant 3 – Not important and Urgent
Q3 is the quadrant of DECEPTION. People often confuse these as being important tasks while in fact they are not. Or people think the task is urgent but it really is not (and thus should belong in Q4).
A common occurrence of mistaking something as important is when someone is asking you to do something that does not directly help you achieve your goals. The key here is being able to say “no” to these people.
An example of this at home came early in our marriage when I played on a softball team with co-workers and friends. That event in and of itself wasn’t a problem. The problem was that when the games were over, I allowed my friends to convince me that it was really important to go out for some drinks and fellowship. And because this didn’t rate very high on Susan’s list, this activity then moved to Q1, a crisis.
Examples of mistaking something as urgent, while they are not, are often sources of distraction. For example,
· Doing things that other people tell you are urgent but they really aren’t
· Doing easy things rather than what needs to be done.
· Picking up the phone while you are working
· Constantly checking your email inbox and responding right away.
· Constantly checking Facebook updates
· Continually checking your phone for text messages
Quadrant 4 – Not important and Not Urgent
Q4 is the quadrant of WASTED TIME. It contains the tasks you want to avoid as much as possible. These are time wasters that you want to eliminate. If you could identify all your Q4 tasks and eliminate most of them, you would free up a lot of time you could otherwise invest in Q2 tasks.
Some examples include doing these things in excess:
· Playing video games
· Watching reruns of your favorite TV shows
· Following the news
· Checking your social media
· Most things that you do in excess
The caveat is that this quadrant can be mistaken as something that shouldn’t be part of life, but that is not true. It is really important to have a balanced life between work and your personal life. You need downtime to not get burnt out and that is where Q2 comes into the picture. The challenge is you allocate most of your time to Q2, with just enough of time spent in Q4 to get by.
The real key to effective time management using the Four Quadrants is continually evaluating time that you are spending in Q3 and Q4 and shifting that time to invest it into Q2 activities. This will require discipline and selflessness. It is worth it though because the rewards can be great. Spending more time effectively in Q2 many times will result in…
· Less crises because they have been prevented
· Happier family life because they have become an important part of your time and life.
· More productiveness and job success
· Better health and well-being
· Much less stress in all areas of your life.
So if you want a little short-term joy with little purpose in your life, Q3 and Q4 will help you achieve that. But if you truly want to discover purpose for your life along with long-term peace and joy, invest time into Q2. Perhaps you will need a true friend or trusted advisor to help you re-arrange your schedule and get on track for much better tomorrows.
POINTS TO PONDER
· Do you currently use a time management system? How is it working?
· Which quadrant do you spend most of your time in?
· What kinds of things are you doing that are Quadrant 2 activities?
· What can you change to allow you to spend more time in Quadrant 2?