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

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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

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2022

    How to Use Travel Time Effectively

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    How to Use Travel Time Effectively

    Most of us associate travel and time with what we’re going to do one we get to our destination. Planning and mapping out what to do once you arrive can certainly make for a more pleasurable vacation, but there are things you can do while you are on your way that can make it even better.

    Sure, you can plan for the things you’re going to do on your vacation while you are travelling en route – but what about making use of that time for other things that you don’t usually do when you’re at home? You don’t need to have your gadgets with you to do it, and you can really connect with yourself if you take the time to manage your life while heading towards your vacation destination.

    Here are some great tips to help you with your time management while you travel, some of which are more conventional than others. Nonetheless, you can find out what works best for you and apply them accordingly depending on when and how you are travelling.

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    1. Take Your Time Getting There

    As I write this, I’m on a flight to San Francisco. Flying is the fastest way to get from place to place, and for many people it’s really the only way to travel.

    But I’ve often taken the train or ferry on trips so that I have extra time without distraction to get more done. I’m not worrying about navigation or lack of space to do what I want to do. Instead I’m able to focus on getting stuff done during the time I’ve got without feeling rushed. For example, when I took the train from Vancouver to Portland, it was an eight hour trip and I managed to get a ton of writing done and closed a lot of open loops. It also was less expensive than flying, which was a bonus.

    Sometimes taking the long way to get somewhere on vacation can be the best thing for you to get somewhere with your life.

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    2. Go Gadget-Free

    This is going to be a tough one for a lot of you. But why do you need to bring your gadgets with you when you go on vacation? It isn’t be a bad idea to leave all but one of them behind, and only pull out that one when you absolutely need to do so. In some countries, you’d be wise to be discreet with them anyway since flaunting them in front of those that are less fortunate than you isn’t a good practice. While it may not seem like flaunting to you, in different cultures it can definitely come across that way.

    If you can’t go gadget-free, then at least go Internet-free. If you use a task management app that requires syncing across your multiple devices to be effective, remember that if you only have the one device with you then it can be the “master device” for the time being and will store your data locally anyway. Just sync up when you get home.

    3. Reflect and Prepare

    Finally, going on any sort of excursion gives you the perfect opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been. The fact you have removed yourself from where you usually are can give you a perspective that you simply can’t get when you’re at home. You may want to journal your thoughts during this time – and by taking more time to get to your destination you’ll have more time to dig deeper into it.

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    After a period of reflection – however long that happens to be – you can then begin to not only prepare for the rest of your travels, you can prepare for the rest of what happens afterward. The reflection period is important, though. You need to really know where you’ve been in order to properly look at where you want to be. Time away from things gives you that chance.

    Conclusion

    Traveling isn’t always about where you’re going and how quickly you can get there. In fact, it’s rarely about that at all.

    More often it’s where you’re at in your head that will dictate how much you benefit from traveling. So don’t just go somewhere fast. Instead, take your time on the way there and take the time to connect with not only where you are but who are while you’re there.

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    If you do that, you’ll have a better chance to be who you want to be when you leave.

    Featured photo credit: bruce mars via unsplash.com

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