by Kathy Paauw
Organizing & Productivity Consultant
Certified Personal & Professional Coach
Tools is a Monthly Ezine
Capturing That Elusive Thing Called TIME
thing is to keep the main thing
So often I hear people say, "I can't afford to take time out of my busy schedule to plan!" To that I respond by saying, "If you are that tight on time, then you can't afford NOT to take time out to plan." I'll illustrate my point with a real-life example.
Over the past year I have worked with two very bright and capable women who have a lot in common. I'll call them Carol and Marilyn (not their real names). Both are professionals working in similar fields. Both supervise a large team of employees. Both are married to spouses who also work outside the home. Both are mothers of school-age kids. Both are about the same age. Both struggle with managing the volume of paper and electronic information they receive daily. Looking at these women from the outside, they appear to have a lot in common.
And they are very
Although I am devoting the majority of this article to a discussion about time management, I want to first point out the difference between management and leadership. Management works within the system. Leadership works on the system. Stephen Covey reminds us that "fundamental to putting first things first in our lives is leadership before management." It becomes critical to ask yourself, "Am I doing the right things?" before "Am I doing things right?"
Once you are clear about your priorities (doing the right things), planning and organizing around those priorities is essential. This is because we are a society that is urgency addicted. We tend to focus on that which is urgent -- whether the activity is important or not. Stephen Covey sums up the problem very well: "It's important to realize that urgency itself is not the problem. The problem is that when urgency is the dominant factor in our lives, importance isn't. What we regard as "first things" are urgent things. We're so caught up in doing, we don't even stop to ask if what we're doing really needs to be done."
If you struggle with
a strong urgency mindset, read on. I guarantee that you will feel more
satisfied and fulfilled when you take steps to focus your time and energy
on what's most important and avoid those activities that are less
important or not important to you.
Time Management Matrix
does it matter how much we do
In his book First Things First, Stephen Covey offers a wonderful tool for analyzing how you spend your time -- the Time Management Matrix. Covey has broken time into four quadrants:
The goal is to manage activities in Quadrant I, focus on activities in Quadrant II, and avoid activities in Quadrants III and IV - activities that you've deemed as not important. And yet, because so many of us are urgency-addicted, we tend to spend the bulk of our time in Quadrants I and III - doing activities that are urgent and important or urgent and not important.
that you have a tool to help you measure how much of your time you spend
doing activities that are not important to you, it's time to make some
conscious choices about how you spend your time in the future.
Weekly Planning - A Transformational Key to
Reclaiming Your Life
"The greatest value of the planning process is not what it does to your schedule, but what it does to your head. As you begin to think more in terms of importance, you begin to see time differently. You become empowered to put first things first in your life in a significant way." --Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Let's revisit my clients, Carol and Marilyn. Carol has fully embraced the weekly planning process. She is noticeably more at peace now than she was when we first started working together. Her quality of life has dramatically improved as she has clarified priorities and has done weekly planning to ensure that she focuses her time on Quadrant I and II activities and avoids Quadrant III and IV activities.
Marilyn has not reserved time for planning. She is too busy putting out fires (Quadrant I) to spend time planning her weeks (Quadrant II). And the more she neglects Quadrant II activities - relationship-building, self-care, values clarification, and planning her schedule to accommodate what is most important in her life - the more Quadrant I activities she has to deal with. She generates her own fires and then feels compelled to put them out.
When we neglect activities in Quadrant II long enough, they often become Quadrant I. Then our schedules get filled with urgent activities. When urgency rules, stress levels go up, and we do not feel that we have any choice about how we spend our time.
A client recently began our coaching call by sharing her frustration about not having enough time. She went on to list all of the things that she HAD to do that day. After hearing her say "I have to." about six times, I asked her, "Do you CHOOSE to do all these things you've just listed?" She recognized that she did not HAVE TO do any of them...that she chose to do most of them, and she might choose to either delegate or not do one of the things that before felt like a HAVE TO. The realization that these activities were a choice completely shifted how she felt about them.
Language is very powerful as we do our planning. Be aware of your self-talk as you make choices for the week. Listen especially for should, gotta, and have to in your self-talk. Those trigger words may signal that you may not be feeling at choice, even though you probably are. Unless someone is holding a gun to your head, you have a lot more choice than you realize.
Stephen Covey has created a six-step weekly planning process. I've found that this process does not work nearly as well if I skip any of these steps:
To review this planning process in greater detail, click here. This process has transformed my life as well as the lives of many of my clients.
People are motivated change by two things: increasing pleasure or decreasing pain. Weekly planning is a tool that has the capacity to help you increase pleasure and decrease pain in your life. I challenge you to go to your calendar NOW and schedule one hour a week for the next month -- preferably at the same time each week -- to do your weekly planning. Focus on Quadrant I and II activities as you plan. I'll bet that the quality of each week will go up and you will feel a much greater sense of accomplishment because you will have heightened your focus on what's most important to you.
Copyright © 2002 Kathy Paauw, All Rights Reserved.