Do you live your life by the clock or the compass? Is the frenzied activity of your life reactive or proactive? Are you in control of your schedule or does your schedule control you? The following ancient scriptures help to frame our discussion today.
“Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:13-17
What problems are you having with personal time management? What percentage of time is controllable and uncontrollable? What’s your biggest time wasting activity? As you think of your team members what are the biggest time wasters? What do you wish you had more time to do?
Steven Covey popularized a matrix depicting four types of activity. Quadrants I, III, and IV are REACTIVE activities while quadrant II is proactive. Too much time spent in I, III and IV results in a fast moving, treadmill existence. Spending sufficient time in II limits and controls the effects of the other quadrant activities. Activities in this quadrant are PROACTIVE in nature.
If we spend too much time in Quadrant I we are susceptible to stress, burnout, crisis management, and always putting out fires. This quadrant includes our normal responsibilities, obligations, and duties. It also includes crises of our own making such as situations where a decision was needed but put off. Now we have many other decisions we have to make because we didn’t make the critical decision initially.
Too much time spent in Quadrant III results in short-term focus, crisis management, reactive leadership, little time or patience for goals and plans, feeling victimized, feeling out of control, and produces shallow or broken relationships. This quadrant often contains other people’s crises that we assume or are triangulated in on because of their failure to complete assigned tasks we oversee.
Too much time spent in Quadrant IV results in total irresponsibility, being replaced or fired from jobs, and an unhealthy dependence on others or institutions for basics. We escape to this quadrant when quadrants I and III become overwhelming. Too much time in this quadrant makes us susceptible to unhealthy activities and dysfunctional behavior.
When sufficient time is spent in Quadrant II the results are quite different: vision, perspective, centeredness, discipline, few crises, and control. Covey states that “In a successful company 20-25% of time is spent on Quadrant I activities, just 15% of time on urgent but not important (Quadrant III) activities, and 65-80% of time on Quadrant II activities. Quadrant II activities - important but not urgent activities, are present wherever success is present.” Spending appropriate time in this quadrant will control the unrealistic demands or negative influence of Quadrants I, III, and IV.
As indicated earlier, Quadrants I, III, and IV are reactive in that we are reacting to people, events, and circumstances. Only Quadrant II is proactive. But because it is important but not urgent we tend to put off these activities for another day, week, month or year. Making Quadrant II a high priority will, in effect, control the ‘size’ and ‘influence’ of Quadrants I, III, and IV.
I strongly recommend that you conduct a personal audit of how you spend your waking moments each day. Regardless of the type of calendar you use to keep track of your time I suggest you track the use of your time for at least a week. I recommend the follow color scheme.
For activities that fall in Quadrant I highlight them in GREY on your calendar. For activities that fall in Quadrant III highlight them in YELLOW on your calendar. For activities that fall in Quadrant IV highlight them in RED on your calendar. Finally, for activities that fall in Quadrant II highlight them in GREEN on your calendar. If you do want to highlight your activities in colors simply put the appropriate descriptor (QI, QII, QIII, or QIV) next to the activity.
At the end of the week, analyze how you spent your time. You may be surprised with the results. Remember, Quadrant II activities are intentional choices we make but are often neglected because of the tyranny of the urgent. We desire to be proactive with our lives but instead, spend the majority of our time reacting to life or the demands of our responsibilities and obligations. By devoting time in Quadrant II you will find that you are moving from a desperate attempt to maintain balance to one of centered living.
How much time are you spending (in a given week) in each quadrant
What percentage (%) of time is spent in each quadrant?
What activities are you engaged in waste time or are not healthy?
What changes must take place if you are to manage your time more effectively?
What kinds of activities will you prioritize for Quadrant II?