What is the most valuable resource in the world? Is it money? Love? Think carefully… and you’d soon realize that the answer is most probably “Time”. Time is the only resource we all have equal amounts of, and if any one of us is more successful than another, it just means we have spent our time in a better way to achieve that.
Another characteristic of “Time” is that once you’ve spent it, you can never recover it. You can earn back money you spent, but not time. “Love”, at the other extreme is a limitless resource… you can keep giving it and you’ll never run out of it…
So knowing that time is a limited resource, how should we spend time wisely. One of the best lessons I have learnt in Time Management is from the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In habit No 3, First Things First, Stephen Covey explained the Urgent – Important matrix as shown below :
Everything we do in life can be divided into 4 quadrant as shown in the matrix above. What we need to do to use this matrix is to put down everything we do in life into the matrix above. Some of the things we put into each quadrant may be different to what others put there as it depends on the priority of the person at different stages in life. For example, to a younger person starting out in life, “Savings” may be very important but to a person who has reached financial freedom, “Savings” may not be as important. Fill up the quadrant based on your own priorities.
Next we need to identify the amount of time we spent in each quadrant. Be really honest here as it is the key to successful use of this matrix.
What most of us will find after filling out the matrix is that many of us spend a good portion of our time in Quadrant 1 and 3. Quadrant 1 is the “Fire-Fighting” quadrant while Quadrant 3 are “Time Wasters” and we spend much of our time here because they are classified as “Urgent”! While it may be necessary to address issues in Quadrant 1, nobody is going to get hurt if we do not spend time in Quadrant 3.
Similarly, many of us will also see that we spend quite a good portion of our time in Quadrant 4. This is the Quadrant we actually should not spend any of our time on. Activities here are neither Urgent or Important.
What is most interesting about this matrix is that many of us will find that we do not spend enough time in Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 2 is the key to successful Time Management. Quadrant 2 are where you find the “big rocks” in your life and once you address the “big rocks”, you’ll find lots of time to fill in the spaces with the “small rocks”.
In Part 2, we will look at another matrix which when combined with the Urgent-Important matrix, will bring your time management to a completely new level. I leave you with a video of the big rocks experiment done by Stephen Covey which is self explanatory!