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By: Alex Fernandez
Internet Marketing Strategist
A couple weeks ago, we started a Productivity Series based on an awesome seminar that Matt Mernin and I attended for PTE. The seminar was on “Managing Multiple Priorities, Projects and Deadlines with Larry Singer from Fred Pryor Seminars. Hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to read part 1 of the Productivity Series, “5 Tips for Managing Your Email Inbox.”
This week, we’re sharing more from what we learned, on the topic of prioritizing! We have 168 hours in every week. That’s a lot of hours, but it can be wasted if we don’t do the right things, in the right order. Have you ever worked all day long – only to wrap up and think “I’ve gotten nothing done!”? Prioritizing is the process of designating in what specific order tasks should be handled. This is a rewarding process that ends with the satisfaction you feel, knowing that your most urgent and most important tasks are off your plate, leaving you with a manageable schedule.
One of the key takeaways from the seminar was the “Four Quadrants of Time Management,” adapted from the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven R. Covey. The idea is that every task falls into one of four “quadrants”:
- Crisis: Urgent / Important
- Productivity: Not Urgent / Important
- Distraction: Urgent / Not Important
- Waste: Not Urgent / Not Important
The Four Quadrants of Time Management
- Waste: Covey recommends keeping these activities at a minimum – but be realistic. Everyone needs a sanity break from time to time. The idea is to keep these activities in check, but still partake every now and then.
- Distraction: These are all of the little distractions throughout your day. From people walking in to your office with questions, to phone calls and emails. Beware of forfeiting too much of your time here. You have a job to do!
- Productivity: This is obviously where we want to be. Planning for future success, being prepared, preventing problems before they happen, making new connections and broadening our horizons. This should take the most time out of your week.
- Crisis: Unavoidable at times, but this is NOT where you want to be. If things get pushed back to the last minute, and work is fast and frantic, mistakes will happen; valuable time will be lost. Sometimes there will be crisis, and it has to be handled before anything else – but the idea is to minimize it.
We have modified Covey’s model slightly, to reflect the 80/20 principle. The purpose of the Four Quadrants model is to maximize time spent on high importance / low urgency tasks. We have added recommended percentages next to each item to reflect the 80/20 rule.
- 80% of time = important tasks / 20% of time = not important tasks
- 80% of time = not urgent tasks / 20% of time = urgent tasks
- In the “Not Urgent” column, 75% productivity + 5% waste = 80%
- In the “Important” row, 75% productivity + 5% crisis = 80%
When you have multiple tasks of the same HIGH importance (welcome to the agency life), order them a few different ways to find the best one to start with:
- From least time consuming to most time consuming
- From most visible/impactful to least visible/impactful
- From items you can’t easily delegate to items you can easily delegate.
Now, try and think of your workweek so far…
Where has most of your time gone? Which quadrant would that time fall into? If you’re like I was before this seminar – you’re probably spending too much time dealing with unimportant tasks, which leads to crisis later on (as important tasks are left unaddressed today).
Hopefully, you’ll find use of the Four Quadrants of Time Management in your job. We only have so many hours in a week, and those hours need to be spent on the IMPORTANT tasks in our jobs. Keep checking back for more on the Productivity Series! Until then!
Note from the author: When you first start using this process, it may be difficult to adapt right off the bat. It may take a few days or even weeks depending on what has piled up for you in past months. There IS, however, a great reward once you reach your ideal productivity level. That reward is less stress. You won’t be constantly rushing, and you’ll be getting just as much (if not MORE) done, because you’ll be productive. So hang in there!