“The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” ~D.D. Eisenhower
As we get started with the new year, I would love to say that I came back from a nice holiday break refreshed and rejuvenated, In all honesty, I sat at my desk, grateful for the time away, and appreciative for the freedom Confluence Business Solutions has provided our family… and I was also completely dead dog tired.
You see, what happened was, we closed up our office for the holiday and we immediately began hosting family, and with that came projects. Don’t get me wrong, I made this scenario happen, I LOVE FAMILY TIME and I LOVE PROJECTS!
I love automation projects and website projects in the business and at home, I love farm and garden projects, home improvement projects and the sorts. So by the time our vacation ended, we had tested and played with power tools, crafted some clever signs, baked cookies, built gingerbread houses, started our own custom workbench, and if that wasn’t enough, we renovated a bathroom.
Why do I share this with you? Because as the days leading up to our holiday break approached, my schedule was packed and I was convinced that as soon as our break started, I would feel less overwhelmed. Yet when our break began, I filled it, yet again, with urgent things that just had to be done.
We are only a few days into the new year and I have lots of goals both personal and professional, but one that crosses over into both areas is getting a better handle on how I manage my time and my priorities.
As an executive leader of organizations in the past, I remember getting feedback from a mentor as I was praising myself for getting lots of stuff done in my job. His response was, but is it the right stuff? I was baffled and, at the time, irritated that he stole my thunder. But he went on to share a tool that I used for years to help me prioritize my efforts. What I learned, sometimes the hard way, was that getting stuff done really didn’t matter if the most urgent and important things were not completed. Getting five low hanging fruit tasks off your to-do list does not make up for the fact that you didn’t get to paying your mortgage, or finishing an assignment on time for a client. As business owners, we are accountable to our clients and customers, but ultimately we’re accountable to ourselves and being able to prioritize our work is of critical importance. If you don’t learn how to prioritize, you crash and burn. Learn how to prioritize and the balance is on the other side and,perhaps, some healthy boundaries as well.
So, as I commit to conquering the chaos in my daily work schedule, I share with you the tool my mentor shared with me so many years ago, the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s time to add this back into my tool belt and, as you set out to make amazing things happen this year, it just might help you as well. Here’s how it works:
Developed by, you guessed it, Dwight D Eisenhower, who was notoriously great at managing complex plans and responsibilities both in the military and then as president. This matrix helps you prioritize your to-do list so you can determine what needs to be done immediately, vs. things that maybe don’t need to be done at all, or at least not by you. For the matrix to work, we are focused on identifying things on a scale of urgency and importance. I’ve seen this tool introduced in a few different formats, but below is the most common format and the one I like the best.
Rather than look at a list of to-do’s in one vertical line, where you start at the top and work your way down, the goal is to look at your list of to-do’s and answer the questions. Is this task important? Is it urgent? If the task is both, then it goes in the first quadrant. If it is neither, it goes in the last, or somewhere in between. Then when all your tasks are placed in a quadrant, you are able to focus on what is the most important and most urgent tasks first and, perhaps, you can identify things you can move onto someone else’s to-do list. And I wouldn’t be a good automations expert if I didn’t mention that delegating can also be simply automating the task. Are there things that you are placing as priority of your time and energy that could be automated/delegated, freeing you up to do other more pressing tasks?
Here’s an example of two tasks that I can prioritize using the matrix; a client with an upcoming launch that is reliant on our team getting her landing page created, approved and live is both important and urgent because we have a date that we are accountable to. Checking my email every time I hear that ding is important, but not urgent and, by stopping what I’m doing every time I hear that ding derails me from the creative process. It slows me down and jeopardizes my ability to get the most urgent and important task completed.
So as I sit and reflect on my goals for this upcoming year, I know the key to success is going to be my ability to use this tool daily to help me focus first on those most urgent, most important tasks. I challenge you to take a look at how you’re managing your time?
Whether you’re a team of many or a team of one, it is essential to business success that we successfully navigate our priorities. The Eisenhower Matrix helps us hold ourselves accountable to the tasks that we say are of biggest priority, gives us a clear and streamlined way of choosing what to focus on first and those that follow, and might even set you free of that thing you have convinced yourself needs to happen right away.
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