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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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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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