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  • Writer's pictureKathy Miles

Time Management Series Part 1 - The Time Management Grid

Time Management Grid

Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid is a tool that helps people organise their time according to four quadrants – ranging from important to not important and urgent to non urgent.

By sorting your tasks into each of these quadrants we can identify which are the most important tasks, what we need to delegate, what we need to avoid and what we need to schedule time for.

Once we know all of this we can get on with the task of actually achieving our goals and tasks.

Quadrant One: Time Critical

This quadrant contains all the items that are Urgent and Important.

Most often these are things that crop up unexpectedly such as emergencies, crises or problems that we need to solve immediately.

Deadline driven projects and tasks also come under this category, especially when they are left to the last minute.

Everyone has had days where all you are doing is being reactive and putting out fires. It is exhausting, stressful and means that we don’t have time for proactive behaviours. If you spend all of your time in Quadrant 1 and none in Quadrant 2, then soon all you will have are time-pressured situations and emergencies.

Quadrant Two – Proactive

This quadrant contains all of the items that are Important but Non Urgent.

These items don’t require your immediate attention but they are very important as any time spent in Quadrant 2 will make dealing with Quadrant 1, 3 and 4 much easier.

The activities in Quadrant 2 are all about being proactive and helping us be efficient time managers. By spending more time planning, preparing, building good relationships with your team and ensuring your team are adequately trained, any emergencies or crises that do occur will be able to be dealt with quickly, efficiently and with minimal fuss.

Any time spent in Quadrant 2 helps us to achieve our goals, improve our time management, and reduce our stress and pressures.

Quadrant Three – Time-Pressured Distractions

This quadrant contains all of the items that are Urgent but Not Important.

Often these time-pressured distractions are a result of the people around us, such as needing to attend a large amount of meetings, being interrupted by others who just want to chat or even helping others to complete work.

Often when others ask us to do something we drop what we are doing to complete the work. This might be to prove our worth, receive appreciation/ acceptance or improve our status.

Often we confuse the items in Quadrant 3 with things in Quadrant 1, making us think they are important. By concentrating on these tasks it means that more things are likely to become urgent and important and move into Quadrant 1.

Quadrant Four – Wasting Time

This quadrant contains all of the items that are Not Important and Not Urgent.

Often the stress and pressure of dealing with items in Quadrant 1 and 3 can make us want to escape by spending time in Quadrant 4. We make excuses as to why we should be day dreaming, procrastinating, getting distracted or wasting time.

Whilst these things may be nice activities, the more time we spend in Quadrant 4, the more stressed we will become because the items in Quadrant 1, 2 and 3 are being neglected, meaning that more items will become urgent and important.

These types of activities should be avoided at all costs as they add no value to your day.

Making the Time Management Grid Work for You

  1. Make a list of all the tasks that you perform on a regular basis during a typical work week.

  2. Now assign these to the appropriate quadrant.

  3. Eliminate any items that are in Quadrant 4.

  4. Remove, delay or delegate any items that are in Quadrant 3.

  5. Prioritise the items in Quadrant 1.

  6. Ensure that you schedule some time each week to work on items from Quadrant 2.

Stay tuned for the next two blogs which form part of the Time Management series. In these, we will go through the Time Management Filter and the ABC System for effective sorting and prioritising of your tasks.

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