In my last blog post (which you can read here) I revealed my oft-used habit of “counting loose change,” my term for procrastination (or, as I like to think of it, “the art of not doing what I should be doing when I should be doing it but don’t want to”). In that post I offered up four simple ideas for how to quickly prioritize your time.
Sometimes, though, there’s simply more to manage than a few simple guidelines can handle. Perhaps your work to-do’s and your home to-do’s have started overlapping and you’ve found yourself (as I sometimes do) working on a Sunday morning to finish a report or missing an evening dinner with my husband because I’m on a conference call. Or perhaps you’re suddenly faced with a burst of emergencies that only you can handle.
When that starts to happen I often lean on a model I learned several years back. It’s a simple four-box matrix developed by Steven Covey that addresses a way to manage to-do’s and discern what is urgent, important or trivial. (He outlines the model quite well in his book, First Things First.)
Covey’s quad-graph provides guidance and language for determining where your time goes by having the reader place tasks in one of four buckets:
- Urgent/Important – those things that are at crisis mode or deadline-driven,
- Not urgent/Important – those things that fall into leading, planning, relationship-building and empowerment,
- Urgent/Not important –those nagging little things that feel like word balloons on the old VH-1 show “Pop-up Videos” — interruptions, some phone calls, some emails, many popular activities (I’d much rather be doing that!) and most of the so-called “pressing matters,” and, finally,
- Not important/Not urgent – trivia, busy-work, junk mail, some phone calls, and escape-luring, counting-loose-change activities.
And, if you think nothing will ever end up in the Not important/Not urgent bucket, my guess is you’ll be very surprised at how much actually lands there. Go ahead; try it. Then let me know what you find out. My guess is that—like me—you may have spent a bit more time than you’d like counting loose change!