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If You’re Busy But Still Find Your Hard Work Doesn’t Pay Off, You Probably Lack This Important Skill

If You’re Busy But Still Find Your Hard Work Doesn’t Pay Off, You Probably Lack This Important Skill

Former United States President Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for putting together one of the most important yet fundamentally simple to understand concepts in time management. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle is a tool to help decipher what tasks need to be addressed more immediately than others. Anyone who uses the principle will be better able to organize and orchestrate their daily tasks. This skill is especially imperative for busy people who find themselves working too hard and still not getting everything done.

Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle places tasks into four categories:

  • Important and Urgent
  • Important but Not Urgent
  • Not Important but Urgent
  • Not Important and Not Urgent

These four categories are used to label and organize which tasks need to be addressed first and which ones can be approached last. By asserting something’s importance and its urgency, we are better able to identify what comes first:

covey-time-management-grid
    Image retrieved from SAE Alumni Association

    What these quadrants reveal is that identifying which tasks are either important or urgent boils down to time management and what makes us most efficient. For example, President Obama’s former campaign manager said in an article by WebMD that Obama valued his time to exercise and that it helped fuel him for the rest of his day. According to Obama, “The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time.” The article goes on in detail about his routine and how he values its importance.

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    James Clear, a behavioral psychology writer, noted in a blog post that “too often, we use productivity, time management, and optimization as an excuse to avoid the really difficult question: ‘Do I actually need to be doing this?’ It is much easier to remain busy and tell yourself that you just need to be a little more efficient or to ‘work a little later tonight’ than to endure the pain of eliminating a task that you are comfortable with doing, but that isn’t the highest and best use of your time.”

    Let’s take a deeper look at each quadrant, what it means, and how we should approach all of our tasks with either urgency or importance (or both).

    Urgent And Important

    For Urgent/Important tasks, they can arise unexpectedly or may have been left for the last minute. These tasks need to be managed ahead of time. Make plans to address these tasks so that they do not become stressful activities when it comes close to deadlines. It’s also a good idea to leave some wiggle room in your daily schedule just in case unexpected tasks come about.

    Assess your deadlines. Are you moving at an appropriate pace to meet that deadline?

    Emergencies happen. Whether they are unexpected meetings or sickness or injuries, they can’t be put off until later.

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    This will force you to reconsider your task list and how much time you have to apply to each quadrant.

    Important But Not Urgent

    Not Urgent/Important tasks are integral to personal growth, building relationships, and accomplishing long-term professional goals. If these tasks are given the proper amount of time, they will not become urgent. This will prevent unexpected and last-minute tasks from unexpectedly cluttering up your time later on, keeping stress and frustration at bay. You’ll be able to complete work efficiently and effectively.

    Exercise is an example of this. Personal growth through exercise is not an overnight progress. Training for a run or any other sort of competition doesn’t begin just days before. Plan your goals ahead of time, but leave room for urgent, unexpected tasks.

    Maintaining your relationships is also important. Keep up with friends and family and partners, but be mindful of how much time you’re alotting here. There is such a thing as putting too much time into relationships. Your goals are important, too. If you keep putting them off, they’ll soon become urgent and you’ll become stressed. This may affect your relationships in the long run.

    Urgent But Not Important

    Urgent/Not Important tasks are cumbersome and get in the way of your goals. Responding to phone calls or emails that are not pertinent to your goals or attending meetings with people who don’t bring any value to completing your activities can be wasted time. Avoid these if possible and delegate the activities if you can. Something to keep in mind: you’re saying yes to the person, but no to the task.

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    If someone or something requires that you do things for them frequently, then it might be best to arrange time for them in one larger block of time. This will allow you to focus your energy and time on multiple things.

    Respond to time-sensitive correspondence as needed. Don’t wait until after a deadline to inform someone when that deadline is:

    You: “Hey, the class will be starting at noon today.”

    Colleague: “Really? Because it’s already 2 P.M.!”

    Not Urgent And Not Important

    Not Urgent/Not Important tasks should also be avoided. Spending time on Facebook or Twitter, watching TV, and shopping (when it’s not important to completing your tasks to have the things you’re shopping for) can significantly drain your time. Limit these tasks as much as possible. It’s not always going to be easy saying no to these mostly leisure activities, but it is important to remain mindful of how much of that time you’re using here.

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    Yes, everyone is talking about the new show on Netflix. They watched it this past weekend and are already posting memes and gifs on Facebook. This doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

    Complete tasks first and then assess if you have time to participate in leisure. Otherwise, you’re procrastinating, and that affects all the other quadrants.

    In Conclusion

    Eisenhower’s Principles can be vital in developing skills to effectively and consistently complete tasks, delegate properly, and work efficiently. Take time to look over your tasks to determine which quadrant they belong.

    • Is there a deadline? If yes, then it is important.
    • Is the deadline soon? If yes, then it is urgent.
    • Is the task necessary to completing the other tasks? If yes, then it is important.
    • Can I delegate the task to someone else? If yes, then it is not important.
    • What does it have to do with your personal growth?
    • What does it have to do with your professional growth?

    Ask yourself these questions when you need to determine a task’s importance and urgency. Make a quadrant table of your own somewhere to help you visualize all your tasks. This is an excellent exercise for time management, and it could be the foundation of healthy work habits that stick around for a long time.

    Featured photo credit: Jazmine Quaynor via stocksnap.io

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    Kyle Hiller

    Author, Writer

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    Published on April 25, 2019

    How Creativity Can Help You Get Ahead in Life

    How Creativity Can Help You Get Ahead in Life

    Have you ever felt limited in your abilities to do something you really wanted to pursue? Maybe it was an ambition you had, or an idea to start something. Perhaps it was an opportunity that came your way, but you weren’t able to take it because something held you back.

    Often, we’re unable to progress towards our goals because such obstacles stand in the way. We let our limitations stop or overshadow our abilities to see through to a goal.

    Yet, there’s one thing that we rarely think of to use when trying to overcome limitations.

    Creativity.

    What is Creativity?

    When I say creativity, I’m not talking about an innate talent. Creativity is a much needed, but often neglected, skill that everyone has! It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input.

    Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems.

    Everything, including brilliant inventions, cannot come from nothing; it all derives from some sort of inspiration. Creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.

    From this perspective, you can find creativity at play in many areas.

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    For example, Mark Zuckerburg rapidly became successful by taking the previously existing concept of social media, and combining it with an incredibly simple interface that appealed to a much wider audience. Uber and Lyft combined the idea of a traditional taxi service with an incredibly efficient smartphone app.

    Both of these examples connect different ideas, find common ground amongst the differences, and create a completely new idea out of them.

    That’s creativity in a nutshell, and anyone can improve theirs.

    Limitations are Actually Opportunities

    The advantage of using creativity, is to help you see limitations as opportunities. Take any limitation that you may find yourself facing, is there a way to look at things differently?

    Let me illustrate with an example.

    On the day of my son’s 5th birthday, my wife and I arranged a party for him at a children’s adventure park. His friends and family were all invited, and the plan was to have a long, fun day out to celebrate.

    However, the day didn’t go exactly as planned…

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    At Lifehack, we pride ourselves on a healthy work-life balance, so I wasn’t concerned about taking the day off to celebrate. But, on the big day, a call came through to my phone.

    It was a manager from Lifehack. He excitedly told me that a group of investors were quite interested in our business proposition, and were wanting to meet later that day.

    This was great news! A potential investment could be coming our way. But, I was already miles away from home and the office. Plus, it was my son’s birthday…

    I asked if I could call him back once we got settled into the park.

    To be honest, I was pretty certain I was not going to be able to make it. Asking to reschedule would be a risky request, but there was no way that I was going to miss my son’s party.

    My son could sense something was off, and he asked me what was wrong. So I let him know that I just received a call about a meeting today, but also told him not to worry as today was about celebrating his birthday.

    But like all kids, he continued questioning me…

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    “But daddy, is it important?”

    “No, of course not,” I bluffed.

    Then, with childlike intuition and creativity, he asked: “Can’t you just meet with them at the park?”

    And, then it struck me! This was the idea that I was missing.

    Even though my son didn’t quite understand that it would not be possible for the investors to meet me at the park, it made sense for me to simply do a video call!

    I could miss 25 minutes of the party to do a quick call while the rest of the party walked through the aquarium. And, in the end, that was exactly what happened.

    I called back my teammate and asked him to briefly explain to the investors why I couldn’t be there in person to meet, but would be happy to join via video. I took the call, and was able to spend the rest of the day at the park with my son.

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    Not only did my son enjoy his birthday, his simple idea led to a successful investment meeting that allowed us to get funding for a new project.

    This is where I was able to turn a limitation into an opportunity that enabled me to reach my success.

    Creativity is One Key to Success

    When you use your creative ability to turn your limitations and setbacks into opportunities, you’ll find doors opening for you in areas you may have never imagined.

    Remember, your attitude is also important when it comes to achieving a goal, and tackling a setback or problem. That’s because a positive attitude transforms not just your mental state, but your physical and emotional well being. It is the key to lasting total transformation.

    Check out this article to learn more about how you can tune your attitude towards positivity.

    So, the next time you’re feeling limited by your abilities, setbacks or challenges, don’t give up. Really look at the situation, and see how you can leverage on your creativity to find an alternative solution.

    Featured photo credit: Photo by William Iven on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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