No matter what you are doing; you have to manage time. We all know the fact that we have a limited amount of time in our hands in a day. You get 24 hours each day, whether you are a billionaire or a streetside seller, you have 24 hours in a day. But what separates people on this earth is that how they spend 24 hours each day. What activities they do, what tasks they finish, what things they do daily. In this blog, you will learn about time management matrix and activities that fall under different quadrants in the matrix. It will help you in making decisions in your day-to-day life about how/where you should spend more time.
First, you need to understand the two factors that define an activity are urgent and important. Urgent means it requires immediate attention. Urgent matters press on us; they insist an action. They are often unimportant but they are pleasant, easy, and fun to do. Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals. We react to urgent matters. Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity.
Now, look for a moment at the four quadrants in the time management matrix below
Quadrant I is both urgent and important. It deals with significant results that require immediate attention. Crises or problems are activities in Quadrant I. It consumes many people. They are crisis managers, problem-minded people, deadline-driven producers. As long as you focus on Quadrant I, it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it dominates you. Some people are literally beaten up by problems all day every day. The only relief they have is escaping to the not important, not urgent activities of quadrant IV.
Most people spend 90% of the time in quadrant I and remaining 10% in the quadrant IV, leaving them no time for quadrants III and II. Their day is all consumed by working on urgent things, resulting in stress, burnout that ultimately leads them to quadrant IV where they spend rest of the time in trivia, time wasters, and pleasant unimportant things.
There are other people who spend a great deal of time in “urgent, but not important” Quadrant III, thinking they’re in Quadrant I. They spend most of their time reacting to things that are urgent, assuming they are also important. Examples are unimportant meetings, picking up phone calls that aren’t important enough to be answered right away, some email that doesn’t need the reply immediately. The urgency of these matters is often based on the priorities and expectations of others. Spending time in Quadrant III activities results in short-term focus, shallow relationships, feeling of being victimized.
Similar to quadrant III, quadrant IV activities are time wasters. The examples are mindless web browsing, watching hours and hours of YouTube videos, unnecessary spending of time on social media etc.
People who spend time almost exclusively in Quadrants III and IV basically lead irresponsible lives.
Effective people stay out of Quadrants III and IV because urgent or not, they aren’t important. Effective people also shrink Quadrant I down to size by spending more time in Quadrant II.
Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things like building relationships, exercising, long-term planning, reviewing career path, working on our weaknesses, sharpening our strengths, setting goals – all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren’t urgent.
Quadrant II activities can have tremendous positive difference our life. Our effectiveness can take quantum leaps if we focus on Quadrant II. Spending more time in Quadrant II results in better vision, perspective, better balance in life, better discipline, control and most importantly fewer crises because you have spent significant time in planning things in advance.
We encourage everyone to spend at least 2 hours of time every day in doing quadrant II activities. The easiest way to distribute those 2 hours could be – 30 minutes for exercising, 30 minutes for reading, 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to get in touch with your loved ones, and 30 minutes for planning out a day at work.
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Time management matrix is explained in details in Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change