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.