“Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.” This is the Wikipedia definition of time management.
One common evidence we see regardless if you’re an entrepreneur, employee in a startup, small, medium or big company is the amount of tasks, projects or activities you’re supposed to handle. Many of them arrive very silently at your desk or computer. You just nod and take them as you don’t want to:
- Say no to your boss or stakeholders
- Show weakness or incapability
- Be labelled as negative or without a “can do” mentality
Besides, those additional tasks are distributed with a smile supported by the excuse that you have new tools, systems or processes that will make you more performant and effective, therefore doesn’t represent additional work load (let’s keep this one for a next topic).
If you try to resist and push back, the message conveyed is clear: you’re not well organized. You need to work on your productivity, efficiency. Look at your colleagues; they can handle the workload without complaining or struggling.
Objective is clear: Beat workload, be more productive, and be more efficient. Achieve more.
So you start questioning yourself, feeling the need to organize yourself better and assure you keep track of your tasks and responsibilities on a timely manner. You attend trainings, group discussions; adopt tools and systems on the topic of time management to increase your productivity and efficiency. Besides the “to-do” list (next post), Pareto analysis, software applications and Pomodoro technique, there’s one that very likely will be presented as a “must adopt” to clear the storm in your head regarding priorities and task classifications:
The famous Eisenhower method:
Where tasks should classify under a 4 box matrix: Not important/Important/Urgent/Not urgent. I have to admit this had a very positive impact on the way I was working a couple of years ago. But I wasn’t using it the right way. In my head I did the ranking as
- Urgent and important 2. Important not urgent
- Urgent not important 4. Not important not urgent.
That’s quite OK, but there’s another way to look at it and push it to the next level:
- The box 4 not urgent not important: Why should you care to waste time with these tasks? Simply put them out of your way. No brainer. Say no, delegate.
- The box 3 Urgent not important: Why should you allocate time and resources with something that doesn’t bring any add value? Out with it.
Ok we just have 2 left. Now you face a dilemma. Imagine you have only sufficient time to allocate to one box. Which one would it be?
Probably you’d pick the box 1 Urgent and important. These are the fires that need to be extinguished right away. Ok let’s pick that one and extinguish those fires.
What happens next day? You bet. The tasks you had on box 2 Important not urgent became urgent and are now in box one. And while they moved to box 1, new ones came to box 2. So you keep on turning the wheel like a rabbit focusing your day on box 1 because it will be full every single day by tasks and activities coming from box 2.
If you put your focus on Box 2 Important not urgent, you actually prevent the fires to start and detach yourself from being a fireman day in day in. The secret of excellence in time management is focusing in box 2. Of course at beginning this will demand effort and eventually sacrifice, but in the long run, it means you have your priorities under control and you know exactly where to focus and dedicate your time without being running left to right, ultimately leading you to lose that feeling of being overloaded. You allocate your energy and focus to the right tasks and priorities, creating space to understand what you’re doing and mastering your day.