We all have 24 hours in a day, no more, no less. Yet, some people seemed to do more in those limited hours than you. You have personal and business tasks that file up as the days go by. You wish you can stop the clock or magically whisk away all those tasks into completion.
You write down your “To Do List” (TDL) each day, crossed out what you have completed and transferred those that were not accomplished in the next day’s TDL Some tasks kept popping in and out of your TDL and never got completed, much less started.
If you see yourself in those situations, perhaps you need intervention – learning and developing good time management skill.
Time Management vs. To Do List
According to Psychology Today magazine, “Time management is the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours in your day to effectively accomplish your goals.”
Time management is way different from writing your TDL. For starters, there are 3 things that you need to focus on in time management that are not required in your TDL.
- Plan – requires organizing (writing) the tasks that you need to accomplish. Okay, this one is similar to your TDL. But, that is where the comparison ends.
- Identify – requires focusing on prioritizing the tasks you planned by identifying what is important to you and the urgency for completion.
- Take Action – identifying which of your planned tasks contribute to your short or long term goals, in other words; your desired outcomes
The process of classifying planned tasks by their urgency or importance is known as the Eisenhower Time Management Matrix or as others call it, Eisenhower Decision Matrix. Steven Covey presented this same process in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, although he did not call it the Eisenhower Matrix.
Step-by-Step Procedure for Assembling the Time Management Matrix
I prefer Excel, but if you do not have either software, you can use lined or graph paper.
- Draw your Matrices. Draw the Eisenhower matrix on the left side. On the right side, draw another table with three columns, we will call this the Action table.
- List your Tasks. Write down your task just as you do with your TDL in the first column of the Action table.
- Label based on Urgency. On the second column of the Action table, classify whether the task is Urgent with a “U” and “NU” if it is not urgent. Focus on the tasks labeled “U”.
- Label by Importance. On the third column of the Action table, identify which of the tasks in step 3 are important and not important, label them “I” and “NI” respectively.
- Transfer Tasks to Appropriate Box. Now you are set to transfer all the tasks in the appropriate Matrix box. Those with both U & I will go to the Quadrant I (left top column), those with NU & I on the second Quadrant II (right top column), those with U &NI in the third Quadrant III (left bottom column and finally, those with NU & NI in the fourth Quadrant IV (right bottom column.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix
Now that you have assembled your time management matrix, it is time to get into action. It is obvious that those in box 1 should be done first. Do the tasks in Quadrant I first. Some think that the next actions are those in Quadrant III, but that is not the case. Those in Quadrant III are urgent, but they are not important. Most of the tasks here can be delegated to someone else.
The second tasts to focus on are those in Quadrant II. These are important, but they are not urgent, which means you have time to complete them. However, do not just ignore them. Make sure you schedule them and when the time comes, they will be in Quadrant I.
For the tasks in Quadrant IV, since they are both not urgent and not important, they can be eliminated or re-evaluated. Do you really need to do them? Can they be delegated, maybe? And so on.
Now you have a visual guide for action.
The Eisenhower method should be done daily to be effective. The urgency and the importance of yesterday’s tasks might change depending on circumstances.
If you want an Excel file for this matrix, or you have still have questions on how to use the Eisenhower matric of time management, Contact me and I will gladly send you the Excel file and/or answer your questions.