Are you making the most of your time at work? Many employees struggle because they don’t know their priorities. Everything seems important, so they end up “spinning their wheels”, being busy but not necessarily productive. At the end of the day they feel beaten up by the daily urgencies.
How can you best prioritize your activities? Here’s a tool that will help you to prioritize how you spend your time based upon importance and urgency.
Urgent Not Urgent
Waste of Time
Quadrant A – Important and Urgent
These are tasks which MUST be done, such as deadline-driven projects, reports, and meetings, crises, and problems that must be immediately addressed. Examples are the system goes down or you get a call from school saying that your child broke his arm on the playground. Therefore, these things are a top priority.
Quadrant B – Important but not Urgent
These are activities such as planning, preparation, prevention, recreation and relationship-building. Examples include strategic planning, preparing for an important presentation, or needed recreation. These activities improve your productivity. The result is better health, improved performance, better relationships, and more balance.
Quadrant C – Urgent but not Important
These activities include other people’s minor issues, unnecessary reports, and unimportant meetings, phone calls, and mail. They are often characterized by needless interruptions.
Quadrant D – Not Urgent and Not Important
These activities include busywork, phone calls and mail from solicitors, and excessive TV watching or Internet surfing. These are often a waste of time.
Here’s how you can use this tool to manage your time.
Quadrant A – Since it’s both urgent and important, you need to address it immediately.
Quadrant C – Try to manage or minimize these needless interruptions.
Quadrant D – Since these are neither important nor urgent, avoid these activities altogether.
Quadrant B – You want to spend more time in this quadrant, which will boost your productivity and improve your balance. So block out time on your calendar for these activities.
Consider how much time you’re spending in each of these quadrants. In order to make the best use of your time, try to spend less time in Quadrants C & D, since they aren’t important, and spend more time in Quadrant B. If you do, you’ll realize great gains in your productivity.
How can you make the most of each day? Start by taking five minutes in the morning to plan your day. Planning will help you identify what’s most important for you to focus on today. Investing just a few minutes at the beginning of each day can make a significant difference in your productivity.
Each morning list your tasks and activities that you want to accomplish that day. Be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish in the given time. Once you’ve listed your tasks, then prioritize them. Prioritize them according to importance (A, B, or C). “A” priorities are those things you must get done today or there will be a negative consequence. For example, let’s say you have a report that’s due today. Your boss needs this information for an important customer meeting tomorrow morning. If you don’t get it done, it will negatively impact the outcome of the meeting and your boss’ perception of your performance. “B” priorities are those things that are important, but not necessarily urgent. And “C” priorities are those that you would like to accomplish (such as filing or updating records); however there’s no real consequence if they don’t get done today.
The biggest mistake people make is labeling too many tasks as “A” priorities. Ask yourself, “Do I absolutely have to get this done today?” and “What is the consequence of not completing this task today?” These questions will help you determine if it’s truly an “A” priority. Another mistake people often make is trying to do too much (myself included). Be realistic about how much you can accomplish. When you estimate the time it will take to complete a task, it’s a good practice to double the time. Also allow for interruptions and the unexpected. You never know when something important will come up. When things come up, be flexible and willing to modify your priorities as needed.
Once you’ve prioritized your list, you’re ready to get started. Start by completing your “A” priorities and then move on to your “B” priorities. Once you complete a task, put a checkmark next to it. If you’re like me, you’ll gain satisfaction just by checking it off your list. By following these tips for planning your day, you’ll be more productive, effective, and satisfied!