Inspired by Charles Hummel, Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill gave us a wonderful tool to deal with time management issues and I would like to share a very quick breakdown with you. This simple time grid has proven very useful in my own leadership journey and I am sure you will find the same value if you put it into practice.
If you take important actions and you cross it on a grid with urgent actions you get four quadrants that can help you define, and improve your use of time. Allow me to quickly break down each of those quadrants for you.
Quadrant 1 is where the required action is Urgent and the outcomes are important. This is the quadrant of Crisis because it is here where immediacy rules the day. In this quadrant decisions are important and you need to proceed carefully because your time is restricted in the Urgent. If there is a quadrant in which decisions can go really bad, this is it. If you find you are always working in this quadrant, you need to do everything you can to find margin in your schedule.
Quadrant 2 is where the required timeframe for action is not urgent but the outcomes are important. This is called the quadrant of Quality because it’s within this framework that a leader can truly excel. In this quadrant, those important decisions come with the time required for data gathering, theorizing, testing, and then implementation. This is where the five-star leader operates.
Quadrant 3 is where the action is urgent but the outcomes are not important to the forward progress of the organization or project. This is called the quadrant of Deception. Why deception? Because it is very easy to fall into the trap of working on urgent things that are not important to the future of your organization. The deception enters in because you are busy, and everyone sees you as busy and hard working. You begin to believe that you are doing well. The problem… you are busy doing nothing that matters. You have decieved yourself.
Quadrant 4 is where the action is not urgent and the outcomes are not important. This is the quadrant of Waste. I like to call it the quadrant of Casual Waste. Why? Because just like Quadrant 3, it is absolutely detrimental for a leader to be working in this quadrant. It’s Casual because it can sneak up on you… and it kills an organization if its people are working here on a regular basis.
In 1994 when Covey and the Merrills established these quadrants they estimated that 2-3% of all workers time was spent in this quadrant. However, with the popularity of social media today, many have speculated that this has increased to as much as 20 or 25% of man-hours being spent in this quadrant. Imagine that. Imagine the cost to business in lost productivity.
So, how do you get a grip on your time? Let me start with where you need to be. You need to work in Quadrant 2, Quality…
There are two simple ways to get there.
First. Take the time to review your daily activities. List them all. Determine what is important and what is frivolous. Those frivolous things have you working in either Quadrant 3 or 4 and by their elimination, you will automatically rise toward the quadrant of Quality. Decide you will no longer do frivolous stuff!
Second… Avoid procrastination… If you procrastinate, items in Quadrant 2 (Quality) make their move to Quadrant 1 (Crisis) forcing you to work in urgency which always minimizes strategic thought.
Giving yourself sufficient time to make the important decisions will move those decisions back into Quadrant 1, the quadrant of Quality.
Remember, true leadership is found in problem-solving and decision making, neither of which are found in the Urgent, or the frivolous.
Here is the video I created for this post.