Friday, February 13, 2009

The Heart of Effective Personal Management

Inspired by meeting with a team of managers yesterday, I reopened my old, worn, highlighted, dog-eared, Post-It Note-filled copy of Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to the section about the Time Management Matrix:

Some definitions:

  • Urgent activities requires immediate attention. "Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action." We REACT to urgent. They seek our attention. Addressing a crisis is urgent, even if it isn't always always important.
  • Important activities, on the other hand, have more to do with opportunities. "If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals. Important matters that are not urgent require our initiative to get going."

Identifying and addressing the Root Cause of a crisis is important, as example, but urgency often "trumps" important. Too, if we don't know, or aren't quite sure about, what IS important, we'll almost certainly automatically default to working on only what's urgent, whether it's important or not.

The Four Categories or Quadrants of Activities:

  1. Activities that are both urgent and important (Quadrant I)
  2. Activities that are not as urgent as other things, but nevertheless important (Quadrant II)
  3. Activities that may be urgent, but are not particularly important (Quadrant III)
  4. Activities that are neither urgent, nor important (Quadrant IV)

What happens when you over-focus on the Urgent/Important (Quadrant I) -- intentionally or not?

"As long as you focus on Quadrant I," says Covey, "it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it dominates you. It's like the pounding surf. A huge problem comes in and knocks you down and you're wiped out. You struggle back up only to face another one that knocks you down and slams you to the ground.

"Some people are literally beaten up by problems all day every day. The only relief they have is in escaping to the Not Important/Not Urgent activities of Quadrant IV. So when you look at their total matrix, 90 percent of their time is in Quadrant I and most of the remaining 10% is in Quadrant IV, with only negligible attention paid to Quadrants II and III. That's how people who manage their lives by crisis live."

What happens when you over-focus on the Urgent/Not Important (Quadrant III) -- intentionally or not?

This quadrant is particularly important to understand as, per Covey, there are many people who spend a great deal of time in Quadrant III, thinking they're actually in Quadrant I.

But the reality of the situation is that the urgency they feel for these matters is often based on the certainly pressing, but possibly unimportant, requests and wishes of others.

What happens when you over-focus on the Not Urgent/Not Important (Quadrants III and IV) -- intentionally or not?

Simply said, "People who spend time almost exclusively in Quadrants III and IV basically lead irresponsible lives."

Quadrant II -- The Heart of Effective Personal Management
Quadrant II deals with things that are not urgent, but ARE important. "All the things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren't urgent," live in Quadrant II.

The most effective people have figured out how to spend most of their time in Quadrant II. In this regard, "Effective people are not problem-minded; they opportunity minded."

That's because Quadrant II activities can have a tremendously positive impact -- on how things go ... on what happens next ... on how you and others think ... on what you and others think about ... on what becomes doable ... on what is improved ... on what can be accomplished.

So given that,

  • What can you start doing (or start doing more of) to get more into Quadrant II-type stuff?
  • What can you stop doing (or start doing less of ) to get more into Quadrant II-type stuff?

Hey, I know that these questions may not be all that easy for you to answer. But consider:

If you find yourself saying that you're too busy to even try and answer them, trust me -- while they may not be the most urgent questions for you to answer, they just might be two of the more important ones that have come your way in quite some time!

That's what's at the heart of effective personal management.

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2 Comments:

Blogger v3 says...

really cool stuff....Good job. keep it up

April 2, 2009 5:03 AM  
Blogger Barry Zweibel says...

thanks, v!

April 2, 2009 6:15 AM  

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