I used to teach the Time Management Matrix or the 4 quadrants of time management in a training course I supported during my corporate career. I was chatting about this tool with a friend the other day and thought I would share it with you in case it’s something you can use to your benefit.
If you’re not sure what the time management matrix looks like, take a look at the photo below.
Q1: This quadrant in the top left is where urgent and important functions land. They are typically your fires/emergencies. Ultimately you want to spend as little time here as possible because this quadrant is stressful. Your goal is to try to solve problems while they are in Q2, before they make it into Q1 if possible.
Q2: The top right quadrant, is not urgent but important. This is a good space to work in, your ideal quadrant for the majority of your work. You don’t want to spend time on unimportant tasks. But you also don’t want to be stressing over everything because it’s urgent. This quadrant is your planning, strategic, vision quadrant. If you solve problems while they are here, they don’t become urgent.
Example: If you start driving with a full take of gas, and then 4 hours later you have 1/4 of a tank, getting gas is a Q2 (not urgent but important) task. If you wait 2 more hours to get gas, you have now made it a Q1 task, it’s urgent (because you are essentially out of gas) and it’s important to get gas if you don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road.
Q3: This is the bottom left quadrant and focuses on activities that are urgent and not important. These are flow killers for me. They are things that typically other people call “urgent” but are truly not important to you at all. Instant messages, texts, DMs, etc. create tasks that are urgent but not important. The sender, in her mind, believes the situation is urgent because she needs an answer now. So she makes it urgent by taking your attention from your current work to her priority. Any type of interruption is a Q3 task.
Q4: This last quadrant is the bottom right and it focuses on tasks that are not urgent and are not important. This is typically called the “time-waster” quadrant. If we do anything in this quadrant as it relates to work, we have simply spent our time and energy on the wrong task. Think about time on social media. You grab your phone at 2pm, you go check out Facebook, or Insta, maybe a little Snapchat or TikTok and when you look up again it’s 2:30. You lost 30 minutes of time in the blink of an eye and got nothing done.
Now, I’m going to caveat Q4 for a minute. When it comes to working, we want to stay out of Q4. When it comes to life, we need to have Q4 activities. These are activities that allow our brains to decompress and our bodies to relax. Things like reading, lying beside a pool, watching your favorite TV show. We need those things! Don’t eliminate Q4 activities from your life, just reduce them in your workday.
If you like the matrix, grab a copy and write your work activities into one of the quadrants. See where you are “living” and then make any necessary adjustments.