Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time Management - Some Philosophical and Practical Considerations

In the postmodern and connected life we "manage" our time. While world religions can't agree whether time is linear, circular or stops altogether at one point, it seems to be a rather pretentious endeavor to establish rules for time management. Also for the faithless time remains an enigma and sometimes difficult to bear. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said that intelligence is the capability to be alone, and we might as well say - the capability to be alone when time passes by.

We can foster our philosophical understanding of time by using it efficiently in our daily lives dedicated to making money and thus gaining freedom from financial pressures. The single most reason for not realizing our longings in life lies in financial restrictions, hence money is an enabler for independence. When we assume independence from the usual walks of the life of the white collar worker's 9-6-day in the office, we experience enhanced ease of time. We will grow more silent in our minds, and in silence there are truth and power for an eventually happier life.

Let's have a look at daily practices for time management and more financial success:

If you organize your working time with reference to the Eisenhower method, you learn to distinguish the important from the urgent and to act accordingly. Ask yourself about every issue how it fits into the below mental diagram:

Important and urgent - get done with it right away.

Important but not urgent - make an entry into your calendar.

Not important but urgent - try to delegate as much as possible and reduce involvement.

Not important and not urgent - trash it.

The Eisenhower method makes sense if we work receiving from and reacting to the environment, i.e. if we are working dependently. This method helps to prioritize work tasks. In order to become financially free we have to go one step further and look at how we should plan and spend effectively.

Let's have a look at the "time quadrant". So, once more we have the dimensions urgent and important, but this time we do not look at how they help us prioritize work tasks, but at how to spend our time in first place so we can plan our lives.

Steven Covey also describes this time management matrix in the "the 7 habits of highly effective people" in habit 3 "Put First Things First".

Urgent and important - fighting daily fires. This is where most people spend much of their time, doing so is a guarantee to remain in the rat race. Try to minimize your time in this quadrant and if possible, delegate.

Not urgent and important - strategic thinking, big picture mode. This is where you see the forest and not only the tree. This is where you want to spend quality time, maximize!

Urgent and not important - urgent to someone else, not important to you. This is the daily situation of unhappily employed people. Minimize!

Not urgent and not important - this is where you waste your time. Like e.g. gossiping on the phone, watching television, surfing the Internet without purpose. Try to minimize!

Even if we plan our time and spend most of our time in strategic thinking mode, we are sometimes overwhelmed by our daily lives. To gain clarity again and physical strength we should retreat once in a while. Eventually peace of mind and happiness will come along with developing your own inherent time making you a fully intrinsically motivated person.

Augustine of Hippo once said "There is only one word written on the eternal watch - now!" - this tells us not to procrastinate. This is also where intuitions come into play to make wise decision, as in the complex world we live in we do not - and in fact should not - always have the time to gather all the information we feel is required to take an informed decision. If we learn to use our intuitions we learn to be close to ourselves.

Finally, we actively need to give our friends, families, leisure and pleasure the same priority as we give to our work.

Applying the simple methods describe above will not only help us become more effective professionals, but also bring us closer to time. Development, it was once said, is the increase of consciousness.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What is the (Time Management) Matrix?

Stephen Covey's book "Seven habits of highly effective people" sure was a runaway success and not without reason either. Apart from his ideas on being effective, Covey also designed something that every stickler for time would swear by: The Time Management Matrix. This matrix requires you to make a comprehensive analysis of your tasks and categorize them into four quadrants, namely, important, not important, urgent and not urgent.

How will this help, you ask? Well, for one, you will know what needs to be on the top of your to-do list and what should be right at the bottom. Consider this your crash course in prioritizing!

Design a matrix of four quadrants (for those of you who are artistically challenged, your PC could help). The vertical axes go from "important" on top to "not important" at the bottom. The horizontal axes denote "urgent" on the left corner, and "not urgent" on the right one. Now, label the quadrants as follows:

Quadrant one (Important and urgent): Record all important tasks that command your attention right away. This could range from projects with deadlines right around the corner, to any problem or emergency that needs to be dealt with in a hurry.

Quadrant two (Important but not urgent): Cover activities that are of importance to you, such as spending time with your family, taking a holiday, maybe even expanding your business. Most of these activities might be for the long term and hence would require more time commitment.

Quadrant three (Not important but urgent): Taking calls, reading mails, engaging in pleasant conversation; these might not be important but are usually too in-your-face to be ignored.

Quadrant four (Not important and not urgent): Any odd job that can wait and unnecessary conversations over the phone are examples of two activities that would fall under this category.

We'd like to make it clear that the quadrants of the Time Management Matrix are quite broad, and can accommodate pretty much all activities, and not just those we mentioned. In order to maximize effectiveness, you need to be objective and honest with yourself and record your daily chores under the relevant categories. Depending upon the kind of activities that rule your life, the following inferences could be made:

Quadrant one: If you are always on the move, it is natural that stress is your constant companion and burnout is right around the corner. Take care and go a little easy on yourself.

Quadrant two: You have a more balanced approach to life, are plagued by fewer crises and are quite in control of your schedules.

Quadrant three: You probably do not believe in long term goals and vision, and live life by the minute. If a major portion of your life is in quadrant three, you could be suffering from a lack of purpose, especially at work. You will do well to start planning ahead.

Quadrant four: Take a wild guess at where you could be headed...nowhere! If your focus (or lack thereof) continues to be the same, you could have problems with keeping a career or even a family. So take charge and change the way you function!

For details on the Time Management Matrix, refer to "Successful Time Management: a self teaching guide" by Jack D. Ferner available at.If you need help with time management in general, you could read " A complete idiot's guide to managing your time" by Jeff Davidson also available at

While the contents of the Time Management Matrix vary from person to person, the above discussion applies to almost all situations. To manage your time effectively, take a balanced approach. A little bit from every quadrant can make you more effective, focussed, composed and confident.


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Time Management Matrix of Stephen Covey

The Time Management Matrix is from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. This book saved my sanity. I found myself daily getting sidetracked and diverted from my To Do list by what everyone else thought was the top priority. It was their priority, of course, not mine, and I had a bad habit of wanting to please everyone. So what happens is that the last person to hand you a "priority" gets bumped to the top of the list. If you don't set your own priorities, you will be tossed like a bottle on the sea. Stephen Covey simplified it immensely with his 4 quadrants in the Time Management Matrix.

Quadrant I Activities: URGENT + IMPORTANT


Pressing Problems

Deadline-driven projects

Quadrant II Activities: NOT URGENT but IMPORTANT



Relationship building

Recognizing new opportunities

Values clarification

True recreation

Not Important

Quadrant III Activities: URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT

Interruptions, some calls

Some mail, some reports

Some meetings

Proximate, pressing matters

Popular Activities

Quadrant IV Activities: NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT

Trivia, busy work

Some mail

Some phone calls

Time wasters

Pleasant activities

Covey says that many of us spend most of our timein Quadrant IV and almost no time in Quadrant II.

Consider the activities shown in each quadrant:


Clearly, these activities should take first priority. However, your long term goal should be to reduce time spent here by prevention, preparation, etc. (see Quadrant II).


The key to success in gaining control of your time priorities is to focus on activities in this quadrant. If you are currently doing very little here, begin by carving out a small amount of time each day and building on it.


Many of us get trapped by other people's sense of urgency telling us what is important. Allowing your priorities to fall here can result in a frenzied rush to get "things" done, followed by a sense of emptiness and lack of satisfaction.


Obviously, minimize time spent in activities in this quadrant.

I wish you luck with this and warn you that you have to be ever vigilant about it. There will always be someone who wants to revise your priorities


Thursday, October 14, 2010

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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