Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Taking that as a given, what is it that you want to happen in your life before you die? If time is your most valuable and most finite possession, how do you want to spend yours, both as a business person and as a person?
I’ve always found Stephen Covey’s time management model very helpful for making these decisions (see the figure below).
On the vertical axis is Importance, ranging from “not important” to “important,” and on the horizontal axis is Urgency, ranging from “not urgent” to “urgent.” In Quadrant 1 are the Essentials that are both important and urgent, like paying the bills in your business. The rewards for spending time on these things are so great and the consequences for not doing them so dire that we make sure they get done.
In Quadrant 4 are the Distracters that are neither important nor urgent, like spending time raking yourself over the coals for past business decisions that didn’t work out like you wanted. It’s pretty easy to see that this is not a good use of your valuable time.
The real opportunities to use our most precious resource more wisely come in Quadrants 2 and 3. In Quadrant 3 are those Time Wasters that seem urgent at the time but really aren’t important, like a lot of the email you receive. Do you really need to know everything about everything?
Now for the real payoff. Your opportunities in Quadrant 2 are where you can make a huge difference in your life, second only to the Essentials in Quadrant 1. The Quadrant 2 opportunities are those Life Changers that are clearly important but don’t seem urgent because you don’t feel as if you’re on a burning platform.
You think, “I know this is important, but it just seems so far away. Meanwhile, I’ve got email to answer.” Do you have the time to create and implement a top notch strategic plan for your business, or to learn the leadership skills that are necessary to sustain high performance? Do you have the time to take care of your health, or to be with the people you love?
Mark Twain said, “Plan for the future, because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” You’re not immortal. How will you spend your most valuable possession?
Technique #1: Slow down and decide what you really want out of your business and personal lives–then do it.
Technique #2: Take the time to work “on” your business instead of just “in” your business.
Technique #3: Surround yourself with positive people who don’t waste your time.
Technique #4: Take the time to take care of yourself.
Technique #5: Spend time with the people you love–they’re not immortal either.