Prioritizing your Opportunities

As the general business market continues to show strength, many companies remain reticent about hiring more staff. Even as the Fed considers raising interest raises to temper the rate of growth and fight the risk of inflation, many business leaders remain cautious about the future. I'm not necessarily advocating a different approach, though I am still bullish about the next few years. Ultimately, the result of this hesitancy about hiring means that workloads have increased as business picks up.

I suspect many of you are experiencing the same sort of situation in your business. Prioritizing your workload becomes even more critical as we find ourselves busier, but not quite confident enough to add staff. There are a number of helpful models that you might want to share with your staff to help them determine how to best prioritize their activity. The Time Management Matrix can be very effective.

The Time Management Matrix which has been attributed to Eisenhower and also was made popular by Stephen Covey in my favorite book, "7 Habits of Highly Effective People". The Time Management Matrix measures work and activity based on the level of Importance and the level of Urgency. Perhaps obviously, activities that are Important and non-Urgent are where we should spent the majority of our time. This would include preparation, planning, goal-setting, relationship buildings, process improvement, and long-range activities. Unfortunately, when we don't spend time in Quadrant 2 (important/non-urgent) it often leads to having to more fire-fighting and urgent issues. This includes Crises, Pressing Issues, and Deadline-Driven projects, meetings, and tasks. Where we have to stop spending time is with unimportant areas. These include Time Wasters - neither important nor urgent (social media, some meetings, television, some news watching, some email, junk mail, long-lunches, etc. Finally, are the areas that are urgent and can seem important, but they are usually important to someone else. Of course, we cannot always control all of our time and if its important to a customer, it probably should be important to us, but this is where the phrase, "your poor planning is not my emergency" comes into play. Think of this as something someone wants you to think is important, but in the light of all you do, is not.

Helping our staff, and implementing this ourselves, can help us be more productive and better manage our time.

Below the mid-point on the matrix are activities which are Not Important. Urgent but unimportant activities are "foolers" because they appear important due to their urgency, and can sap your time and energy by dragging you into activities which have very little importance. These are the demands for your time when the saying, "Your poor planning is not my emergency" is appropriate. This includes some phone calls, some email and mail, general interruptions and not a few meetings. Finally, you will want to completely avoid and eliminate the unimportant and non-urgent activities from your work day. These include junk mail, some email and phone calls, social media, games, and chit-chat.

Quandrant 1 (Important and Urgent) is where you should spend most of your time. Do these first and do them now. However, if you spend enough time in Quandrant 2 (Important but Not Urgent) you can prevent many important activities from becoming urgent. Plan these activities into your schedule and do not procrastinate. For Quadrant 3 activities (Unimportant but Urgent) - delegate or eliminate. Do not spend time personally on these items. For Quadrant 4 activities, stop doing them immediately and do not even consider them during work hours.

If each person in your organization consistently and accurately evaluated their activities within this matrix, you would find an increase in productivity. Try this for three weeks. Use a chart and assign to a quadrant each activity as it comes to your attention and then practice these suggested responses to them. If you do this well, not only will you become more productive, but within three weeks you should feel more on top of your job than ever before.

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