We discuss a way to help you with prioritising tasks so that you can manage your time better.
‘The average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, or approximately 7 an hour, or 50–60 per day. The average interruption takes 5 minutes, totalling about 4 hours or 50% of the average workday. 80% of those interruptions are typically rated as “little value” or “no value” creating approximately 3 hours of wasted time per day.’ - Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, Author of “Organizing Your Life” and “The Productivity Handbook”
Our lives are full of interruptions. After 20 years of delivering presentations on Time Management and Personal Productivity, Dr Wetmore’s findings indicate the workplace is no exception. We waste 3 precious hours a day on tasks with no value - yikes! It can be really hard to navigate and prioritise your workload. Colleagues will interrupt you with their tasks, which to them are of utmost importance and obviously carry a consequence for you in the workplace. However, you have your own workload which although may not be time-bound, has implications on your own future and personal progress. It can be a major stressor!
Everyone battles the paradox of the urgent vs the important. A role that we can only imagine is not shy of interruptions and the unrelenting bombardment of urgent and important requests is the President of the United States.
In 1954 in his speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, President D. Eisenhower famously quoted J. Roscoe Miller, saying, "I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." He later elaborated on the urgent vs the important in his address to the Century Association in 1961, “Who can define for us with accuracy the difference between the long and short term! Especially when our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.” President D. Eisenhower was renowned for his productivity. Prior to becoming President he had a highly decorated career in the military. He achieved the second highest, five-star rank of General of the Army (1 out of 9 ever to hold this rank), led allied forces to victory in World War II and was appointed as the first Supreme Commander of Nato. During his administration he oversaw the founding of NASA, the formation of the Interstate Highway System, the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (first significant legislation since 1875) and was a key player in ending the Korean war.
How to Work Uninterrupted
In his best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey drew on Eisenhower’s concepts/principles and amalgamated them into a simple prioritisation tool. This tool has been referred to as The Eisenhower Matrix, The Time Management Matrix, The Eisenhower Box, The Eisenhower Method and The Urgent-Important Matrix. It is a decision-making framework that helps you to triage your tasks, discerning what is urgent from important, what could be delegated or dismissed.
These are the tasks that have clear deadlines and consequences. They are normally prescribed by others. Allow yourself to be interrupted for these.
Example: Responding to client’s emails and meeting client deadlines
These tasks are urgent in nature but they do not require your specific skill set. If at all possible, delegate these and lighten the load. Monopolise on the skills of your team.
Example: Booking flights and hotels
These tasks are normally integral to your long term success. They don’t tend to have a fixed deadline and don’t reap immediate results so can easily fall by the wayside. Set aside time when you cannot be interrupted to do these important things. There's that old story of people booking meetings with themselves so that they have the time to do what they actually need to get done. Everyone likes to have a little chuckle about it but it's actually genius planning! Make sure you stick to these scheduled times. Discipline yourself to not be swept up in the tasks with quick wins. This is the type of task that yields growth, progress, quality and satisfaction.
Example: Strategic planning sessions and working on professional development such as taking a course.
These activities are neither urgent or important. Just noise. Get rid, delete and get 3 hours back!
Example: Engaging with time wasters be it by phone or message. Spending too much time on ‘busy’ work that doesn’t align with your goals or vision.