Priotising – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix – Habit Number 3

I recently completed a Self Management session with a group of middle managers who had real issues prioritising and planning and fought a constant battle fire fighting and being reactive with very little time for proactive tasks. I introduced them to Stephen Covey’s (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) Habit number 3: Put First Things First and his Time Management Matrixa concept which promotes the use of four quadrants to determine the tasks you “need” to do and deciding what should be made a priority.

Click for an outline of Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix. Outlined below a brief overview of each quadrant….

  • Quadrant 1 (top left) includes tasks that are both “urgent” and “important” – we have to spend time here and this quadrant will never disappear but we must manage these tasks to avoid burnout. Many important activities become urgent through procrastination or because we don’t do enough prevention and planning. Worryingly Covey suggests we spend up to 90% of our time here!
  • Quadrant 2 (top right) includes tasks that are “important, but not urgent” which are those we should focus on for long term achievement of goals. Here’s where we do our long-range planning, anticipate and prevent problems and increase our skills. Investing in this Quadrant shrinks Quadrant I, avoiding stress, burnout, and deeper crises. If you are currently doing very little here, begin by carving out a small amount of time here each day and gradually building on it.
  • Quadrant 3 (bottom left) includes tasks that are “urgent, but unimportant” and should be minimized or eliminated. These tasks are important to someone else and we end up getting trapped by other people’s sense of urgency telling us what is important – this is the Quadrant of Deception!
  • Quadrant 4 (bottom right) includes tasks that are “not urgent, not important”- what are we doing here…we are escaping from the stresses of Quadrant 1! This is the Quadrant of Waste and includes trivial time-wasters that should be eliminated.

Covey believes that the more time you spend doing things in Q2 the better you become at managing and prioritising. He also suggests that most people spend too much time doing tasks in Q1 and Q3 and are constantly living deadline by deadline and “putting out fires” rather than working on being proactive and “preventing fires”!

Following our session these managers plotted their tasks on their own Time Management Matrix and focused on increasing Q2, reducing Q1 and eliminating Q3 & Q4 with the end result focused planning to prevent these fires … it’s working for them!

Remember: We do not manage time …there will always be 24 hours in a day 7 days in a week , we manage ourselves, others and our work & life and the key is the changing of habits…so start to change your habits and complete your own Time Management Matrix

If you would like assistance with prioritising and putting your Time Management Matrix  into action we would be happy to help  – contact and 086 3807802

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