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Effective, not just efficient

November 24, 2010

Image courtesy of renjith Krishnan/ 

The art of time management involves being effective as well as efficient. The Matrix of Urgent/Important adapted from Stephen Covey’s Book, First Things First, illustrates that it’s important to understand the difference between urgent and important and their relevance in managing your time and tasks (Stephen Covey, First Things First, 1996).

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals.

The time management matrix above shows how to identify where you are working most of the time and whether or not you are being efficient.

Most of us end up working in quadrant 1 because of poor planning, working around other’s people’s priorities or believing that everything is both urgent and important. This leads to rushing to meet deadlines, ignoring personal goals and increasing stress levels.

By spending more time focusing on important but not urgent items (Quadrant 2), you become more proactive, organized and reduce your stress levels. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind to maximize effectiveness:

  1. Carve out time during your week to focus on Quadrant 2 Activities. This may mean booking a meeting with yourself in your calendar. Treat this as a serious commitment and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you make your important/not urgent items a priority. 
  2. Look at recurring crises to identify what can be managed ahead of time so they go from Quadrant 1 to Quadrant 2. Often tasks end up in Quadrant 1 simply because of poor planning.

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