Get Things Done with the Time Management Matrix

If you have too much to do and too little time, then the time management matrix can help.

Picture the's the night before a big deadline and you have so much to do! Your pulse starts to race and you get sweaty hands – you think to yourself “If only I had started earlier!”

Whether you are a student cramming before an important exam, a worker desperately trying to beat a deadline, or something in our personal lives - we have all felt overwhelmed and stressed with too much to do.

The time management matrix can get you off the treadmill of putting out fires and focus your attention on being proactive (rather than reactive) in your use of time.

Being proactive about time management involves distinguishing what is important from what is urgent.

Urgent tasks are those tasks that demand our immediate attention.

This may be answering the ringing phone, cramming for an exam or fixing a broken computer. Urgent tasks exist in quadrants 1 and 3

Important tasks are those that move you toward your goals.

They can be spending time with your family, or becoming healthy or doing tasks that further the goals of your work, or planning to name a few. These can exist in quadrant 1 and 2.

Often urgent tasks can crowd out important tasks. How many of us have answered an unimportant phone call or email when there are other more important things we could be doing - I know I have!

The problem arises when you put off the important tasks. These important things don't go away, and they then become urgent.

This can dramatically increase your stress and reduce your performance.

For example, suppose we put off maintaining our work computer until the computer breaks down, or we put off getting healthy until the doctor orders us to get healthy, or we delay putting time into our relationship until the relationship is on the rocks.

Looking at the time management matrix, important tasks that were not urgent (quadrant 2) now become important tasks that are urgent (quadrant 1)

By putting off important tasks until they are urgent increases your stress! Also, it results in less effectiveness for you, your family and your organization.

So how do we stop the tyranny from the urgent, or the constant putting out of fires, from putting off our important jobs?

The first step is to identify how you spend your time. Are you allocating the time that you spend on tasks that are most important to you, your family or organization.

If not, then the first step is to reduce your time in quadrant 4 and increase your time in 1. This will firstly ensure that get on top of those important tasks so they don’t become urgent - this will reduce your stress and increase your performance.

Once this has been done, then you can start to control or at least manage the distractions that fill up quadrant 1 and 3. See these time management tips for some ideas.

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