Finding time for the big things

— May 22, 2011

What is the one thing everyone wants to improve at work?  Finding time for the big things. These things may not necessarily be big in terms of how long they take, but their impact is big, and they are important.  Whatever your level, managing your time and putting your energy into the right things is key to moving on and up.  But what are the big things?

One attempt at answering this comes from a book that was recommended to me many years ago by suberb management consultant and trainer Louise Shepherd ( The book is Stephen Covey’s “First Things First” and his time management matrix.  He neatly divides all our activities into 4 areas as follows:

1 – Urgent and important, all those immediate problems and deadlines you have to respond to.

2 – Not urgent and important, planning, prevention, values clarification and other strategic activities

3 – Urgent and not important, interruptions, some meetings, and all those things we enjoy doing!

4 – Not important and not urgent, trivia, junk mail, ‘escape’ activities and some phone calls.

Take some time and think about all the things that you have done in the past week.  Where would you categorise them? Covey estimates that most people spend time in areas 1 and 3.  Not spending enough time in area 2 pushes many tasks into area 1, they become urgent because we don’t manage them. Spending too much time in areas 1 and 3 pushes us into area 4 for an escape, which does not really contribute to our overall goals.  In his book Covey challenges the reader to name the one thing that would make a difference to you if you did it well.  He says that this is probably in area 2.  He also says that the answers to this question fall into 7 key areas:

  1. Improving communication with people
  2. Better preparation
  3. Better planning and organizing
  4. Taking better care of self
  5. Seizing new opportunities
  6. Personal development
  7. Empowerment

Because these aren’t urgent, it is important you make time to act on them.  Are you making time for these things?  If not look at what you are doing in areas 3 and 4 and stop doing some of them to make time.  You will find you have less problems to deal with in area 1 as a result.

This is a brief overview, it is worth taking a look at the chapter in full in the book, and also reading the rest of the book if you really want to work on this. Here’s a link to the book, it gets great reviews on Amazon too.

First Things First

Feel free to leave feedback and your own recommendations,


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  1. From victoria
    — May 26, 2011

    hmm – good food for thought. I think I may need to categorise my to-do list this week and then maybe I’ll end up doing the right things, even if I don’t do all the things on the list.. thanks x

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