There is a great time management tool developed by Stephen Covey which is the Important/Urgent grid. This describes four boxes which all contain the words Important plus Urgent but each box is very different indeed because of the small words that go before them.
In box 1 we have (Important AND Urgent) in box 2 we have (Important NOT Urgent) in box 3 we have (Urgent NOT Important) and in box 4 we have (NOT Urgent and NOT Important). When I am coaching time management principles; I use this grid to describe how best to use time and what to focus on to be more productive.
Box 1 describes things you have to do which are important to your business or you personally and are also urgent. These things have to be done and are often described as firefighting. This box causes us much stress and anxiety and we feel the pressure all day long as there is urgency to these tasks being completed.
Box 2 describes things which are important but not urgent so no-one is going to shout if these things aren’t done and that is why this section is the least worked on by most people. But the important thing to note here is that at some stage (because these things are important) they will become urgent and then they go into box 1 for you to get stressed about.
Box 3 describes things which are not important but are very urgent examples could be someone e-mailing you for an answer on something and they want is straight away. Now this person is not important to you or your business but because they are shouting at you and pestering you then you respond. This takes the pressure off but each time you respond to one of these unimportant but urgent requests you are not working on the important things in your world.
Box 4 describes things which are not urgent or not important – things like checking e-mails you have been copied into, going on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Also getting another cup of tea or going for a walk or just daydreaming. These are the things which make you feel good but they are not productive. It’s ok for a few of these a day but we need to keep these to a minimum.
I mentioned before that box 2 (Important not Urgent) is the one which we spend least time in and the one, that if left long enough, will go into box 1 (Important and Urgent) – the firefighting box. When we are firefighting we can’t think straight, we are generally rushing around and less productive. We also feel stressed and less energetic and often frustrated with work and life.
If we spend some time each day in box 2 we will find that we start to feel on top of things, we have more energy and more clarity of thought. We find that we seem to be ahead of the game instead of always rushing trying to catch up. The people I coach who have been shown this system and used the suggestions find that they seem to get more done with less pressure experienced.
The best way to use time is to stay in box 1 or 2 most of the day. The word Important appears in both so always ask yourself if the task ahead of you is Important if it is then that is one task you should be looking at scheduling.
My life has turned around dramatically since I have put these principles into place. I have been working on box 2 on the following areas: Website development, Twitter account, Regular Blogs, Video filming and editing, Google Ads, Roller Banner production, Strategic Alliance development and most recently writing my book.
All the above didn’t have to be worked on and I am busy enough without taking these on but because I have worked on these over the past year they are now in place and they are filling the pipeline of business for the coming year. Because I took action on box 2, I feel in control and on top of things for the coming year and that is on top of wedding planning for the 9th May!
My latest action from box 2 is writing my book. Together with my book writing coach I am on schedule for a book launch in September this year. I don’t have to write a book but I know that it will open doors for me so is Important.
So to get control of your life think box 2 and work on that at least part of each day.