What is the Time Management Priority Matrix

This post will explain the meaning and purpose of the Time Management Priority Matrix. This tool allows you to assess areas that are likely to lead to long-term success and which are merely timewasters. Every activity is divided into four quadrants: Q1: urgent and important, Q2: important but not urgent, Q3: urgent, but not important, and Q4: not urgent and not important.

Introduction

While most consumers understand the importance of managing their money wisely, few apply the same concerns about managing their time. They blithely linger on trivial pursuits while procrastination on vital matters. In reality, while you may waste your bankroll on nonsense and niggles, and then later by hook or by crook acquire more money to spend on your fancy, you will never ever acquire a second that has been wasted. Every moment passed is gone forever.

Thus, time management is one of the greatest of all life hacks. We constantly consume seconds and hours, but are we doing so wisely? Here I will show you the most vital life hack involving time management: the Time Management Priority Matrix, which has been endorsed by leaders as diverse as President Eisenhower and business author Steven Covey.

The essential elements of this time management system are urgency and importance. Everyone understands that some things are urgent, they have to be done right away, while other things are not urgent, they can be done later or not at all. Likewise, some things are important, they need to be done for us to achieve our goals, while other things are not important and can be accomplished eventually or abandoned with no ill effect. Moreover, some things are both urgent and important and some things are neither. Thus, by measuring the twin elements of urgency and importance, we get can make a matrix with four boxes.

Time Management Priority Matrix example

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important

As you can see in Quadrant 1, a crying baby, a kitchen fire, and some phone calls are both urgent and important. These things almost always get taken care of. This can be called the necessity quadrant. In order to be more successful than you are now, you need to reduce the time you spend working on such emergencies. Some people become addicted to the rush of working in emergency mode, as it makes them feel both important and alive. Yet, this is the path to burn out. Our minds and bodies can’t handle the daily stress of putting out fires (even real firefighters take time off).

Quadrant 2: Important but not Urgent

Here are things that lead to long-term success: exercise, vacations, and planning. This is often called the Quality Quadrant. These matters are all important but they are not urgent, so we tend to procrastinate about them. Our goal should be to increase our time spent doing things that lead to long-term success. In fact, when we do this, there will be fewer emergencies that arise because we have taken care of important matters before they became urgent.

Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not Important

This quadrant includes things such as interruptions, distractions, and other calls. They may be important to someone else, but they do not contribute to your long-term goals and success. This is called the Distraction Quadrant because these items are urgent and they appear important, but they are not. They are a trap. Wherever possible, you want to minimize everything in Quadrant 3. If you are a leader, perhaps you can delegate these tasks to someone else, such as a secretary. Perhaps you can just say, “No, I’m too busy to deal with these interruptions and distractions.” Sometimes you can do part of the task, then send it to someone else for completion. But, alas, there are times when you just have to deal with urgent, yet unimportant matters. Remember, the more time you spend in the unimportant Quadrant 3 the less time you have for the important quadrants 1 and 2, so think deeply about how to shrink this quadrant.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important

Gatcha!

Here lies the Quadrant of Waste, woe to all who linger on trivia, time wasters, and busy work. Such things are non-urgent and unimportant; they are not in any way beneficial to our success nor to anyone else’s. Yet, we are often tempted to spend a great deal of our precious time in this quadrant. If you want to be successful, you must greatly reduce your time here.

How to apply the Time Management Priority Matrix in your life

Overall, you aim should be to identify your long-term goals and put activities which best aid those goals in Quadrant 2. Ideally, you will reduce time spent in the other quadrants, especially the time wasters of Quadrant 4. Let’s consider some typical Quadrant 2 activites:

Planning

Reflect on your past week. Some people like to write their thoughts down in journals. Appreciate your accomplishments and take note of your failures. If you have no failures, you probably aren’t trying hard enough.

– Preview your coming month or longer if necessary. Consider what preparations can be made before things become urgent. This is the key to reducing Quadrant 1.

– Plan out your week: Typically, every Sunday, take an hour or so to write down your major activities for the week and into which quadrant they go. If you are just getting started in time management, don’t overfill your schedule. Coordinate with your family to make sure you don’t miss anything important to them.

– Review your budget, your diet or whatever you feel needs close attention. Consider what changes you need to make to achieve your goals.

Prevention

– Clean your stuff. Wash your dishes, put away food, wash your hands, etc. These basic hygiene actions will prevent disease and insects from troubling you. Clean your tools and other stuff and put them back in proper storage. This is basic kindergarten stuff, but many people fail to do it.

– Do maintenance on your body (diet and exercise), car, house, relationships (have you heard of maintenance sex?). In general, don’t wait for things to break- then you will have an urgency. Instead, schedule a check-up and make sure everything is working well and take early note of irregularities.

Improvement

There are two kinds of improvement to seek: maximizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses.

Your weaknesses should be well known to you if you have done your planning. Identify actions that can help you overcome whatever is holding back your success. Most people create their own failures. If you can stop you self-defeating actions, you may succeed without even trying harder. You can drive much faster after you take your foot off the brake.

After your foot is off the brake, now you can put the pedal to the metal. Embrace your strengths, your competitive advantages and extend them. Take classes or advanced training to prepare for new opportunities and responsibilities. Go beyond maintenance mode and work on improving your health, your relationships, your career. Strive for excellence and balance.

Conclusion

You now understand the basics of how to prioritize your time and action. If you follow these principles consistently, you will have a more successful and satisfying life. Always seek to adapt to changing circumstances and don’t let your plans rule you. Plan for the future, but live in the moment.

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2 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    You have a very nice website here. I really like how you have broken up your content and made it easy to read. It also comes across as very helpful information for those searching for answers in this area. It also flows nicely and is easy to follow and understand. One suggestion, and its a small one, you may consider changing the conclusion heading to something a little more exciting. Overall, nice work!

    • Peter Barban says:

      Thank you very much. I think all my post have the same boring conclusion title. It’s like the post is done and my brain goes on vacation. I’ll have to take some time this week to correct this bad habit and perhaps fix the old posts too.

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