Making The Most Of Our Time
By Paul Walmsley
What is the most expensive resource in the world? Gold doesn’t even make the top 10. Diamond comes in at number four. For me, my number one is something less tangible – TIME!
Life can sometimes feel overwhelming when more and more things keep cropping up; things that we perceive need to be done. “Add another task to my ‘to-do’ list.” “Now which task should I do next?” This was very much my life until I told myself something needed to change and I took action.
You may have come across the saying
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”
President Eisenhower spoke a version of this adage and it has become part of a strategy known as the ‘Eisenhower Matrix’. Simply put, it is a technique for prioritising tasks by urgency and importance. It results in four quadrants, as shown below, each with a different strategy for completing the task.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix
To be at our most productive we want to identify tasks and activities that keep us in the ‘Important row’. We label tasks in this row as either ‘Do Today’ or ‘Schedule’.
- Do Today (Important and urgent) – these are tasks or activities that you couldn’t predict, or you have left until the last minute and must complete now. For example, a deadline you need to hit for an article you are writing. Spending time in this quadrant can help you develop your own strategies for dealing with these types of tasks more efficiently in the future or even eliminate them from happening again.
- Schedule (Important but not urgent) – these are tasks and activities which are still important to you and help you to meet your medium to long term goals and objectives. For example, planning your professional development for the year. Because these tasks and activities are classed as ‘not urgent’ we can tend to put them off and focus on the ‘Do Today’ quadrant. Investing more time in this quadrant can help reduce and prevent many of the tasks in the ‘Do Today’
Not Important Row
- Delegate (Not Important but urgent) – these are tasks or activities that take up your time and energy without contributing towards your medium to long term goals and objectives. They tend to keep us busy but not productive. An example of such tasks are responding to most emails and text messages. Instead of spending time doing them in this quadrant look to delegate them where possible and question the value of any regular activities you do in this box.
- Eliminate (Not important and not urgent) – these are tasks and activities which are not important or urgent and are serving you as distractions. Examples of these include excessive time on social media or tasks that cause us to procrastinate or delay working on items in our ‘Important’ row. Look to reduce or even eliminate time on activities in this box.
Falling into the emotional trap
As a perfectionist I have tended to think about what tasks and activities I still haven’t done or whether the completed ones are done ‘well enough’. This is an emotional trap which adds no real value. Instead I now take a more objective look at the end of each day on what I did do and how I spent my time.
It is easier to do a task yourself rather than delegate or ditch it. Or is it? Too often in the past I have found myself holding on to a task to ‘remain busy’ or to ensure it is done ‘correctly’. This has resulted in me just ‘working a little longer’ and missing out on other important activities such as time with family. The one thing we can’t control is the amount of time we have left on this earth. It’s our most expensive resource. So, let’s make sure we are making the best use of time by doing what is really important to us.
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
Paul Walmsley is an experienced I.T Consultant, author and part time University lecturer. During his many years working in large corporate organisations in the UK and New Zealand he has coached or mentored many individuals and teams and continues to do so now he is self-employed. He is also a Director of Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance.
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