4 Quadrants of Time Management Tips for Success
Stephen Covey says, “As long as you focus on Quadrant I, it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it dominates you.” Take control of your time and persevere with the Time Management Quadrant. By learning how to properly use the 4 quadrants of time management you can focus on the important things in life and prioritize staying in the second quadrant.
You will start to notice that if you spend the majority of your time in quadrant two, that you will actually end up having less items in quadrant one. For example, if you are keeping up with maintenance on your car, the likelihood of an unforeseen car problem decreases.
- Soul searching: Do you have a good idea of what really fills your cup and what is important to you? Without clearly understanding this, you will not be able to correctly label what goes in your second quadrant.
- Make a list of tasks you need to complete: Sometimes it is easier to start with goals that you want to accomplish long-term and then start jotting down all of the tasks that will need to be completed. I do this daily.
- Put deadlines on your tasks: By always including a deadline, you will be able to help determine how urgent your tasks are and help you prioritize your time.
- Identify the most tasks: This will help you filter out urgent from non-urgent tasks so you know what needs to be done first. Rank order your list.
- Take your urgent tasks and organize by importance: This will help you sort what goes into quadrant one and two. Put each of the tasks into the appropriate quadrant.
- Take your non-urgent tasks and organize by importance: Take your non-urgent tasks and organize them into quadrant three and four. Put each of the tasks into the appropriate quadrant.
- Track your progress: As the days, weeks and months go on, are you accomplishing your goals? What quadrants are you staying in? Have you procrastinated? How often do emergencies come up that force you to modify? How are you feeling- fulfilled, stressed? How is your workflow?
- Re-evaluate: You may find that some priorities have changed, new obstacles have come up or even a new goal has popped up. Do not be afraid to rearrange your priorities and tasks like you would with your SMART goals.
How to Handle Tasks
Once you have organized all of your tasks with the 4 quadrants of time management, it is time to tackle them. For each quadrant, there are different recommendations on how to handle your tasks.
First Quadrant: Look at how you can make these tasks more efficient with planning and organization. Are there tasks that you can do ahead of time to relieve stress? Are you performing regular maintenance on your car, home and other necessities to avoid things falling apart? While you will never be able to completely eliminate tasks that are both urgent and important, you can do your best to reduce them by optimizing your productivity.
Second Quadrant: These tasks are where you want to spend the bulk of your time and energy. Take time to really enjoy these and to thoroughly plan out these activities so that you can maximize your fulfillment and full potential in life.
Third Quadrant: People who are people pleasers can easily find themselves spending too much time in this quadrant. When it comes to this quadrant, learning the art of saying no can really take some work off you. In addition, when there are tasks in this quadrant that you can delegate to someone else, do so. Yes, this can involve money because you may want to hire someone like a personal assistant; however, the time you gain can allow you to make more money and be more fulfilled. Just make sure you have ways to easily share calendars, to-dos and files to maximize collaboration and productivity. Sometimes tasks here can also be rescheduled.
Fourth Quadrant: Majority of tasks in this quadrant are ones that should be eliminated from your daily life. Yes, no one is perfect, some days we need a mental break to reset and decompress. Do you best to spend 5% of your time or less on these tasks. This quadrant can also be benefited if you learn to say no and have healthy boundaries with others.
Tips for Success
- Start your day early: Many successful people wake up early to get their day started. Adding exercise to your morning routine has many benefits such as boosting your metabolism, encourages consistency, naturally wakes you up, improves your mental focus, enhances discipline, and sets you up for longer and deeper sleeps over night.
- Make checklists for your day, week and month: This will help you track your progress and give you everything that you need to get done in a visual look. Whether you use your phone calendar, planner or bullet journal, make sure you keep up with it.
- Find an accountability partner: Have someone that knows your goals and when you hope to complete them and that is not necessarily your significant other. This doesn’t mean don’t tell your significant other, it is important to have them involved in your dreams and goals, but telling someone else will also help you stay on track and be accountable.
- Break your day into smaller chunks: When you plan your day with 20 or 30 minute intervals, you can stay focused on the task at hand. It is usually best to do this during the first 10-30 minutes of your day. Do not be afraid to also schedule breaks. Soon, what used to take you 20 minutes, will start taking only 10 minutes.
- Regularly audit yourself: Take time to sit down and audit how you are managing your time. Make adjustments as needed.
- Always have agendas for meetings: Meetings can take up a lot of your time. Your time is valuable, always have a clear purpose and agenda to help the meeting be the most productive.
- Put a time limit to your tasks: Properly thinking out how much time you need to complete your task will make it not only easier for you to plan out your day, week, month or year, but it will also help you notice if you are slacking.
- Be cognizant of distractions: If you notice yourself continually checking your phone or social media, put your phone away and turn on do not disturb.
- Careful with multitasking: Many people think that multitasking is the only way to go, however, research shows otherwise. Sometimes, though, you can be productive when killing two birds with one stone. For example, I regularly listen to podcasts or audiobooks while working out, driving or flying. Professional development plus exercising equals a healthy body and mind.
- Don’t get hung up on perfection: Your new business will never be perfect, just go for it.
Overall, being able to effectively manage your time will help you become a more effective and efficient entrepreneur. You can do this by perfecting the 4 quadrants of time management. Remember that it is ok to adjust your goals and mission, nothing has to be set in stone. New things in life come up, like a pandemic, and can throw off your plans quite a bit. The important thing is that you restructure, regroup and forge ahead.
Finally, if you are looking to start your entrepreneurial journey, we have several things to help get you started:
Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Free Press.