How To Manage Your Time And Prioritize Your Activities
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” – Stephen Covey
Stephen Covey, who passed away in 2012, left behind a legacy of wisdom that impacted millions. He wrote many books, and although most of them were best-sellers, his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will forever be a classic. One of the most powerful concepts in this book has to do with time management.
As you can probably relate, managing our time and prioritizing our activities isn’t easy. Life throws all kinds of curve balls at us on a daily basis, and most of us are juggling many projects at a time in our careers, in our businesses, and in our personal lives.
Finding a way accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished while still maintaining balance in our life is a challenge.
Fortunately, Stephen Covey introduced us to this very simple, yet effective system for prioritizing our activities and managing our time.
The Time Management Matrix
Essentially, anything that is thrown at us (a project, a phone call, an event, etc.) should immediately be categorized into 1 of the 4 quadrants shown in the diagram below. Each quadrant represents a specific degree of importance and urgency. Based on which quadrant the specific activity belongs in, we can then decide whether we should:
1) Do it now;
2) Decide when to do it;
3) Dump it; or
4) Delegate it.
Activities that are Urgent AND important:
- Pressing Problems
- Deadline Driven Projects, Meetings, Preparations
Example: You have an business meeting in another city this evening and your flight leaves in 2 hours. Important? Yes. Urgent? Yes.
Activities that are Important but NOT Urgent:
- Values Clarification
- Relationship Building
- True Recreation
Example: Having a romantic dinner with your spouse. Important? Yes. Urgent? Not necessarily.
Activities that are NOT Important and NOT Urgent:
- Trivia, busywork
- Junk Mail
- Some phone calls
- Time wasters
- “Escape” activities
Example: Researching the price a new car you are thinking of buying one day. Important? Not exactly. Urgent? No.
Activities that are Urgent but NOT Important:
- Interruptions, some phone calls
- Some mail, some reports, some meetings
- Many proximate pressing matters
- Many popular activities
Example: The hockey game starts in 1 hour. Urgent? Yes. Important? Not really.
Protect Your Time. Prioritize Your Activities.
Successful people are good at managing their time and prioritizing their activities. They know what activities are most important to them, and they make time for those activities. They also know what activities are NOT important and will NOT bring them closer to their goals, and they avoid or even delegate those activities to others.
We all receive the same 24 hours each and every day. You can choose to invest that time or you can choose to waste that time. Those who invest their time evidently experience more joy, fulfillment, and success in their life.
“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.” – Stephen Covey
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