If there is a silver lining to being quarantined, it is the opportunity to reinvest your time towards new or back-shelved ventures you’ve always wanted to pursue.
The difficulty is finding out how we do it. For many, having a surplus of time is actually harder to manage than having no time at all. If you’re overwhelmed by having more time than you’ve ever had, but still want to learn that one skill that could possibly take your business to the next level, I hope you entertain using the Eisenhower Matrix.
The sheer name, “Eisenhower Matrix” sounds way more complicated and sophisticated than it actually is. The beauty of its performance is in its simplicity, allowing you to easily distinguish between what is urgent and what is important.
Step #1: Start by writing down the following sentence and fill in the blank; “If only I could do _______________, my business would go to the next level.”
Honestly assess what you think would be the biggest factor in you taking your next step, whether it’s professional or personal. I don’t want to give you an example and influence your answer. Just write down, put it aside. We’ll come back to this.
Next, draw a big box on a piece of paper. Now draw a big cross hair through the box, splitting it into 4 equal quadrants. These 4 boxes represent the way we spend our time.
Above the first column of boxes, write the word Urgent. Above the second column, write Not Urgent. On the left hand side of the diagram by the top row, write the word Important. Beside the bottom row, write the word, Not Important. Once you do this, you can visualize with ease. See below for illustration.
QUADRANT 1: URGENT + IMPORTANT
The top left box is classified as activities that are both urgent and important. These involve actions with clear deadlines and consequences for failing to execute. Fill this box with your appropriate actions.
QUADRANT 2: NOT URGENT, BUT IMPORTANT
The activities in Q2 don’t have any crisis level urgency to them but you recognize them to be impactful on your growth and progress. Fill this box with your appropriate actions.
QUADRANT 3: URGENT, BUT NOT IMPORTANT
Q3 is filled with tasks that are time sensitive, but not overly important. They often don’t require specific skills to accomplish them. Fill this box with your appropriate actions.
QUADRANT 4: NOT URGENT + NOT IMPORTANT
Q4 involves activities that are the least important to developing our business and personal lives. These are activities are often fun and entertaining, but neither urgent, nor important. Fill this box with your appropriate actions.
If you need assistance, here is an example of things I would put in my quadrants.
So what want everyone to do is to go back to that first call to action i gave you, and look at the answer that you filled in. “If only I could do __________, my business would go to the next level.” What was your answer, and which quadrant would that answer fall under?
For me, improving my marketing game is what would take my business to the next level. That falls into Quadrant 2. It’s the area that would yield the greatest return on investment. If I could prospect better, build stronger campaigns, have a good email funnel, and get a print promotion that really wows out to the right people, I would feel ten times better about my direction. And so it makes the most sense to prioritize the activities in that quadrant over the others. Here’s the harsh reality. I often don’t spend enough energy on those areas, even with quarantine giving me the benefit of extra time.
The Eisenhower Matrix highlights your priorities, but it forces you to look yourself in the mirror and see whether your actions are congruent with your beliefs and values.
In the book, the 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey, their case studies showed that the highest level achievers in the world, emphasized time spent in quadrant 2 more than any other quadrant. The rest of the world emphasized Quadrant 2 the least. This was fascinating to me. If I wanted to become a high achiever, all I had to do was emulate other high achievers. Maybe that’s an over simplification, but it’s something that really opened my eyes.
Per Covey’s book, by emphasizing the activities in quadrant 2, you actually decrease the pressing problems that might pop up in quadrant 1. From there, you delegate the activities in quadrant 3, and aggressively audit the amount of time spent in quadrant 4.
So whether you use this diagram or not is of no consequence to me, but understand that if your answer lies in quadrant 2, and you put the least amount of effort into quadrant 2, then you have nobody else to blame but yourself. Your belief system is incongruent to your actions, creating conflict and frustration. You waste time, and most importantly, you waste your talent and intelligence. That to me, is the biggest crime of poor time management.