Using Time Most Effectively

“Sometimes the daily grind can overwhelm the overall goals of the job. Many urgent things come into the office and it is easy to get lost in the ‘right-now’ instead of thinking of the whole picture.”  -- a recent workshop participant

 This challenge is all too common in busy workplaces, but Stephen Covey reminds us in his classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that we need to “put first things first.” The urgent/important matrix is a useful way to understand this dilemma.  Leaders find themselves often in Quadrant I (urgent/important) and Quadrant III (urgent/not important), reactively responding to the needs of the moment.  Quadrant II (not urgent/important) may be underutilized, even though it includes very important leadership activities such as:

- planning
- goal setting
- clarifying priorities
- building positive relationships
- developing and training people
- reflecting on your own behavior and making constant improvements
- imagining future possibilities
- giving meaning to work
- creating a positive work climate where people have a sense of belonging
- communicating your vision and values
- encouraging innovation
- networking
- fiscal analyses
- marketing
- seeking new opportunities
- rewarding positive results.

 The most effective leaders proactively find ways to ensure they dedicate sufficient time to Quadrant II activities, including delegating and looking for more efficient ways to accomplish tasks in the other quadrants.

For Further Thought:   Are you ensuring that you have enough time for important leadership activities? Track your time on different activities for a couple of weeks and assign the activities to each of the quadrants.  What do you wish you were doing less -- or more?  

As a leader, you have an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Don’t underestimate your impact!

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Douglass Teschner