Protecting What is Important to You

The Big Rocks story is a great metaphor for Steven Covey’s priority matrix. That is, making sure all the Important but not yet Urgent ( #2) activities are in your calendar first. ..

I’ve used this strategy with many clients, and they have discovered that we, (yes including me) typically spend most of our time focusing on those things that are Urgent and Important (#1) instead. Usually, this results from a lack of planning and the inability to say no and/or manage interruptions. This is not to say that crisis won’t arise even if we manage our time better.  The idea here is to begin to minimize that as much as we can.

In his research, Covey found that high-performing organizations spend 65% to 80% of their time doing things that are Important but not yet Urgent (#2).  If you wish to manage your time well and want the energy for things that are most important to you, ensure that you are spending a significant amount of time in the Important & Not Urgent (#2) category.

Conversely, when we spend most of our time in the  Important and Urgent (#1) quadrant, we get to a point where all we want to do is retreat to Not Important and Not Urgent (#4) tasks – things like numbing ourselves with tv, food, facebook, etc.  I’m sure that you can see how this is not an effective strategy and a complete energy drain.

Also, when we don’t plan our Important but not yet Urgent (#2) activities, they become Urgent and Important (#1); this often feels like all we’re doing is putting out fires. So the key is to use the calendar, book ahead – see what actives in your career and life are important but not urgent. You could look from:

  • Preparation for projects not yet due – planning
  • Prevention:  annual medical, proper nutrition, regular exercise
  • Clarifying personal & professional goals and objectives
  • Building & maintaining key relationships (personal and professional)
  • True Recreation – ( I love this one – what is true recreation for you? )

Relate to these activities as if they are your best client, e.g. do not move these things, no matter what!

If you do not protect these Important but not yet Urgent (#2) activities in your calendar and remove them for something else, you will, more than likely fall back into the behaviour of tending to the Urgent and Important (#1) and escaping to things that are Not Important and Not Urgent (#4).

Important and not yet Urgent = More Energy

I took some time and filled in the priority matrix with my activities and realized that on those days that are very busy and do not feel satisfying are filled with the Urgent and Important (#1) activities, putting out fires and busy work. On those days I have  no energy at the end of the day and in fact, all you can count on me for is eating unhealthy food and watching excessive TV. I don’t connect with Neil in a meaningful way, and I certainly don’t feel up to connecting with anyone who is important to me. I dread to hearing the phone ring, afraid that I’m going to have to give someone energy I don’t have. The following day, I usually spend the first couple of hours online, looking for something that would be fun, meaningful and interesting to me and not doing what I had scheduled. These are also the days I cancel my fitness appointment and end up paying for it anyway.

The kicker is, I’ve written about this and learned this lesson over and over again in the past five years, and somehow, I continue to make the same errors prioritizing my calendar.

What I have noticed is this: I need to learn and incorporate into my life is what teach my clients. So it’s not a coincidence, that over the past six months I’ve delivered multiple Time Management seminars to both my executive coaching clients and public workshops. I’m teaching what I need to learn!

Being Satisfied & Fulfilled by your work

Interestingly, today I am satisfied and fulfilled by my work, I’ve accomplished one of my Important but not yet Urgent (#2) activities, writing this blog.

How do you manage to keep your Important but not yet Urgent activities in check?

What strategies do you use?


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