How To Master The 4 Steps of Kick Ass Productivity
The past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of coaching on the topic of time management. I keep hearing “I’m so busy, but I keep falling further and further behind." And "I’m not making headway towards my dreams.”
My clients are frustrated; they are dedicated, goal-oriented achievers and they are confused and puzzled because at the end of the day they haven’t moved that marker ahead, not even one notch. I wrote about this topic a few weeks ago in Six Steps To Winning The Battle With Your To-Do List, but today let’s talk about how you decide what to do in the first place.
Years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and even though this book is old, it is a classic, and the wisdom is valid. Let’s revisit the concept of the 4 Quadrants and then we’ll talk about how you can use them to get more of the right things done.
Horizontally, across the top, the tasks run from Urgent to Not Urgent.
Vertically, down the side, these tasks are gauged from Important to Not Important.
How these axes intersect to create four quadrants.
Quadrant #1: Urgent and Important
Also known as Fire Fighting
We’ve all been there. An urgent deadline that you can’t ignore. It must be done…..right now!
These are the most pressing of tasks you'll likely need to do this week. These are the crises that erupt. The most pressing meetings or deadlines all fall into this category.
You can avoid some of Quadrant 1 if you plan well. But life happens, and when they show up you’re going to have to give them attention because they demand it now!
Quadrant #2: Not Urgent and Important
Also known as Quality Time
In this quadrant, the tasks and projects you work on are important; the time is an investment in proactivity. These are the things that matter in the long-term but will not necessarily yield a benefit this week or even this month. They are things we know we need to get to but probably will push off.
Here you are empowered and making measurable progress towards your goals. You’re striving and taking meaningful action. This is the zone of fulfilment and satisfaction.
You will discover if you don’t spend the necessary effort in this quality time quadrant you will spend far more time in the fire-fighting quadrant.
.Quadrant #3: Urgent and Not Important
Also known as Interruptions/Distractions
You know you’ve been busy all day, but you don’t seem to get any closer to your goal. The phone rings and someone wants to talk. Or they walk into your office with something that is urgent for them, and it pulls you away from what you’ve been working on.
These tasks are the biggest reason you're not more successful in the long-term. They clog up your day but, when you look back at these things at the end of the week, you'll have to admit they were a waste of time. These are poorly thought-out meetings that soak up your time, but which you have to attend because you already accepted the invite.
At the end of the day, you’re exhausted and frustrated because you have allowed others to decide what’s important on your behalf. This is the zone of disempowerment and unfulfilled goals.
Quadrant #4: Not Urgent and Not Important
The Time-Wasting Zone
If you’re reading this, you are ambitious, and you want to accomplish something important.
When you’re scared, bored or don’t know what to do next because you haven’t set your priorities it’s easy to waste time playing computer games or scrolling through your Instagram feed. But there’s little to no satisfaction here for you.
These are things you do when you feel tired and need a break. It's watching a mindless TV show at the end of the day. We prioritize these things at the moment, and obviously, we get some pleasure from them, but they are not urgent or important. You’d be amazed how much time you waste each week in this quadrant.
Here are the only four key steps you will need to manage your time more effectively using the quadrants
First step: Print out a copy of the quadrants and keep it close at hand.
Second step: Start to increase your awareness. Don’t judge yourself, and don’t change what you do. Notice how your day proceeds.
As you do #allthethings, ask yourself, which quadrant am I working on right now?
Note: If you’re a list lover. Set a reminder alarm on your phone and each hour track everything you just did and assign a quadrant to each task. You will have a very interesting document in a couple of days. This fearless inventory will reveal a lot!
Third Step: Write out your to-do list for the week, but use the quadrant map instead and write the tasks in the correct quadrant so you can see where you plan on spending your time. Ask what changes you can make to shift away from the time wasters and interruptions.
Fourth step: At the start of each week decide what three Quadrant 3 items you want to accomplish this week. Write them down and commit to taking the specific action steps needed.
Similarly, at the start of each day, ask yourself what Quadrant 3 work do I need to do today to proactively accomplish everything on my list so I can end my week feeling satisfied?
You will probably find, like most of us, you spend a lot of time in Quadrant 3 and 4. Once you are aware where your time is going then you’re in the powerful position to choose differently.
Will you try using these quadrants each week to get more of the things that are important to you do? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear about your experience and what you found most helpful.
I’m curious, is your coaching business growing the way you want it to? If you’re feeling a little bit stuck or unsure of next steps maybe it's time to get some individual focussed coaching. Schedule a complimentary Clarity Session with me to see if we are a good match. Use this link.