Time management is getting more and more difficult, because attention management is getting more difficult, because more things demand our attention, which eats up our time. The principles and practices of effective time management are well known, but people still seem to suffer from stress related to not having enough time. The purpose of this post is to serve as a reminder.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower classified tasks into four categories, which are often represented by a four box matrix:
1. Urgent and important 2. Not urgent, but important
3. Urgent, but not important 4. Not urgent or important
I’m terrible with formatting, so please forgive the poor visual above. I couldn’t figure out how to do boxes. Imagine each numbered item is in a box and we can proceed.
Many readers will have seen this before. It’s easy to get stuck in quadrants 1 & 3. How often to you find yourself in these quadrants? They can suck up almost all your attention and time, leaving precious little time for items in quadrant 2. Quadrant 2 is the tough one. The well known solution is to proactively schedule time for items in quadrant two. Don’t just have a generalized intention to devote time to these things. Put them on your calendar. Do it every week.
Effective use of this matrix requires you to clearly articulate your values. Otherwise, how can you decide what’s important? Notice that the act of articulating your values is a quadrant 2 item :) Ideally, you should set goals only after you’ve articulate your values.
In setting goals, your time horizon plays a major role in determining what quadrant a particular activity falls into. If you only set goals for this quarter, you’ll make certain decisions about what to work on this week. If you set goals for 10 years from now you’ll probably make different decisions about what to work on this week.
The effective use of the Eisenhower matrix requires that you articulate your values, set goals based on those values, and schedule time for quadrant 2 activities. The more distant your time horizon, the better decisions you’ll make.
You must accept the fact that in these times you cannot get everything done. You just can’t. But you can reduce the time stress by knowing that the things you spent time on were more important than the other things vying for your attention. I think that’s the best any of us can do.
Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate your thoughts.