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2020 – the year that changed our way of working

For many of us, the last year has seen a massive change in how our working lives are structured. The Covid pandemic saw many people working from home, often for the first time and juggling homeschooling and family too. At first, the change may have seemed blissful; you gained a couple of hours a day back due to the lack of commute, and for a while, life felt good as you relaxed into a new way of working, but as time goes on, are you left feeling like you don’t have enough hours in the day? It’s quite possible the lines between home and work have become blurred and your time management skills are starting to lag.  That once hated commute is now missed in some ways. Perhaps that hour on the train was an opportunity to catch up on email or read through documents? Maybe you’re not listening to as many business audiobooks as you used to because you’re not ‘stuck’ in the car?

However life has changed for you over recent months, I imagine that you can probably relate to the many business owners that always say to me, “I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time. I need 36 hours in a day, blah, blah,” The reality is we’ve all got 24 hours in a day. We’ve all got enough time. The challenge we have is that we do not use our time effectively. I remember seeing Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix for the first time, and I thought, “Do you know what? I know what I’m doing wrong.”

Our business coaching can help you get your time management back on track, read on to find out how.

Steven Covey’s Time Management Matrix

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the thirty-fourth president of the U.S., thought that we should devote attention and time to our activities following their importance and urgency. He said that we are too inclined to focus on the things that are both important and urgent. This generates a reactive behaviour based on what has to be done right now, instead of focusing on the important and not urgent things, which would be the basis of a more strategic behaviour based on long-term goals.

Stephen R. Covey popularised Eisenhower’s Time Management Matrix in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, stating that we live the fourth generation of time management, more effective, in which managing time itself is no longer the aim, but managing where to focus any particular time.


Time Management Matrix, A Table Showing Urgent Important, Urgent Not Important, Not Urgent Important, and Not Urgent Not Important

The four quadrants of the matrix

Let me take you through the time matrix. As a business owner, we have things in our life and work that are urgent, not urgent, important and not important. Understanding these is the first step to fostering healthy time management skills. Those tasks that are urgent and important, they’re the stuff that you need to do now. Consider how much of your time you spend having to do things because it needs to be done now and you have to be the one that’ll do it. When you’re spending your time in this quadrant, you’re in demand, and you absolutely have no control over your time whatsoever. In essence, you are firefighting. When you’re firefighting, you’re reactive, and it’s not a fun or sustainable way to build your business. 

In the second quadrant, we have tasks that are not urgent but that are important. This is the time management sweet spot. This is the time when you actually start planning your business. We mean that it doesn’t have to be done now, but it is imperative to the growth of the business. I call this direction, but unfortunately, we tend to put off direction—the reason we tend to put off direction because it’s not a fire. We’re not being dragged; therefore, we feel guilty. Should we really be spending our time here? Let me give you a couple of examples that might change your perception. When we look at time, is spending time with your significant other urgent or not urgent? Most of the time, it’s not critical, and you can carry on not spending time with that person. But if you don’t make time to spend it with that person, eventually you’re going to get a knock on your shoulder where they say, “Do you know what? We’re not spending any time together. I no longer want to be with you.” Now, do you have the choice whether you spend your time with that person or not? Absolutely not. It’s now become urgent and important. For those of you reading this and thinking, “That’s me.” Do something about it.

Another example is health. When we’re young, we feel that we’re invincible. And we get to 30, and I think for your first 30 years of your life, you can get away substantially with abusing your body. When you start hitting your forties, there are choices to be made if you want to avoid illness and live a longer life. One of the choices is how do I stay physically active? How do I stay physically fit? Now for lots of people, the thought of going to the gym is along the lines of, “I’m not going to go to the gym. I hate it.” But the reality is that the modern diet is not always conducive to a long and healthy life. We often rely too much on convenience food, dining out and a few glasses of wine to unwind and relax. Follow this path for a few years, and into your forties, you’re going to start coming up against medical challenges.

Challenges like diabetes and cholesterol mean that your doctor says to you, “Okay, you’re now on medication. You need to make lifestyle changes. If you don’t, these medical conditions that you’ve got are going to get progressively worse, and you’re potentially going to shorten your lifespan.” All of a sudden, guess what? Whether you exercise or not, your choice is no longer a choice because the reality is now, if you don’t exercise, you’re going to die. Fact. How many people do we know in that boat? Quite a few.

And it’s the same in business. You’ve got to start thinking, “Do you know what? I need to start making changes.” If you chose to spend your time on direction (quadrant two) rather than firefighting, you’d end up in a place where there aren’t so many fires to fight in the first place. Surely that’s got to be a much better time management strategy?

The third quadrant refers to urgent tasks that the business needs to have done, but they’re not important. It doesn’t mean that they’re not crucial to the company, but what it does mean is that they’re not important to you as the entrepreneur of the business. They are somebody else’s urgent and important. The big challenge you’ve got is that we are nice people. You are nice business owners, and it’s natural to want to be helpful. This results in your employees coming to you and saying, “Hey, I have a problem with this.” And so many business owners then say, “No problem. Leave that with me. I will get it sorted.” And then you wonder why you have no time. Because the reality is very often, you end up doing other people’s urgent and important and your own stuff. This is not an effective time management strategy, you’re never going to have time operating in this way.

I don’t have time

I often have conversations with business owners around why they hired people, and often the answer is,  “Well, because I had no time.” And then I’ll say, “Well, why did you hire people to give you work?” They look at me really upset, but that’s the reality. When you’re doing stuff that is urgent but not important for you, it is what we call distraction because it’s somebody else’s urgent and important. There is an excellent book for this. It’s called One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, and it’s all about time. Because when you’re in distraction mode, the chances are, you have got other people’s monkeys. So think about it, you are paying other people for them to give you work. I bet that wasn’t your original plan! Whilst it may not feel ‘nice’ at first, it is essential to recognise if this scenario applies to you; otherwise, you will never have enough time to be the most effective leader I believe you can be. 

In the final quadrant, we’ve got stuff that is not urgent and not important. This is just delusion. What’s an example of delusion? You’ll often find a manufacturing business owner in the warehouse tidying up. They’re tidying up because, number one,  their employee’s have left it like a tip, and as the owner, they want to lead by example and ensure the place is up to standard. Number two, the owner then justifies this behaviour by saying, “It helps me think.” I mean, come on, you’re an entrepreneur building a business, and you’re stuck in a warehouse cleaning up. How does that help you think? It helps you become poor, not rich. Total delusion. It’s not important. It’s not urgent. And most importantly, it’s not your job!

How to fill your day for success

Let me try and put the matrix into context. Let’s look at time in terms of a vase. It’s a beautiful vase, and it represents 24 hours in a day. First of all, I’m going to put rocks in my vase. Is my vase full? “No,” I hear you shout. Then, I’m going to put pebbles into my vase. Is my vase now full? No. I’m going to continue filling the vase by adding sand in there. Is it full? You’re a hard bunch to please. Finally, I’m going to pour some water into the vase. It’s full. That’s my 24 hours, every second filled. How does that reflect back to the matrix?

First, we added rocks; rocks are the direction of your business. Pebbles represent demand. Distraction is characterised by sand, and Delusion is water. I want you to start thinking about how you’re spending your time in the business. If in your business, your vase is full of pebbles, sand, and water, how are you ever going to get the rocks into your business, into your vase, to take control? 

Often clients say to me, “Well, I don’t have time to put the rocks.” And I agree, but you’ve got to change how you’re filling your vase and put the rocks in first if you want to grow your business sustainably.  

How are you spending your time?

If you’re ready and willing to create more time for your business, I want you to go and analyse precisely what you are doing during your day. How are you spending your time? And actually, what impact is it having on you getting your business to where you want it to be? 

The really harsh reality is that if you’re spending time in the wrong areas, I promise you that your team will also be doing the same. 

I love the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do.” Your team will represent and replicate what you’re doing. If you are dysfunctional, they’re going to be dysfunctional too. If you’ve got a very proactive based business, it’s because you are very proactive. If you’ve got a very reactive based company is because you are reactive. Proactiveness starts in the direction box.

If you’ve got this far and you are interested in looking at time management within your business, you want to go through the Covey Matrix, and perhaps you want to do the exercises to establish where you’re spending your time, head over to boolkah.com and get in touch. 

The reality is, time is finite. See, with money, you can spend your money, and you can always turn it back. Once your time is finished, you can’t earn your time back. Time spent is time spent. Do not allow the time thief to rob you of your time. And remember, failing to learn is learning to fail.

Get in touch with us today for 1 to 1 coaching to get your business back on track.

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