Today’s leaders are faced with an overwhelming number of challenges and choices that need to be addressed while they’re being constantly bombarded with emails, phone calls, texts and tweets. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make meaningful progress on important goals because leaders are spending most of their time fighting fires and dealing with distractions.
If you’re tired of going home exhausted and frustrated because you’re spending too much time on low payoff activities, not finishing projects or neglecting important relationships, it’s time for you to create a just say NO campaign. By saying NO to low payoff activities, you’ll free up valuable time that can be invested in applying the Eisenhower Principle to your life as a leader.
In 1954, former General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech to the World Council of Churches. He stated that he had two kinds of problems. One he classified as urgent and the other he called important. He went on to say the urgent is rarely important and the important is seldom urgent. His time management system for achieving his most important goals was called the Eisenhower Principle.
I was first introduced to this principle by Stephen Covey who popularized this concept by turning it into a four-quadrant matrix for prioritizing our urgent and important work. The tool helps leaders raise their awareness about where they should and should not be spending their time.
Here is a brief summary of the idea.
In Quadrant 1 (top left), we have important, urgent items—items that need to be dealt with immediately. These are your 911 emergencies. Some examples in this area include family emergencies, requests from some clients, or deadlines for high-priority projects.
In Quadrant 3 (bottom left), we have urgent, but unimportant items—These are usually the result of someone not planning properly. They should be minimized or eliminated. Actions in this area include some phone calls, emails and texts. Most of these distractions are created by other people and we have to learn to say NO to them.
In Quadrant 4 (bottom right), we have unimportant and also not urgent items—These are activities we don’t have to do but we do them anyway. They are tension-relieving but not goal-achieving activities. You can include browsing the Web, watching unplanned television or time on YouTube in this area. Most of the distractions are initiated by you, and you have to learn to say NO to yourself.
In Quadrant 2 (top right), we have important, but not urgent items—These are critical actions that do not demand your immediate attention and need to be proactively planned into your day. Some projects in this area include taking care of our health or planning to improve our results and relationships with co-workers, clients, family members and friends. Most of the activities in this area are easy to do and, unfortunately, they’re easy not to do.
Leading in NO time means you learn to say NO to requests in Quadrants 3 and 4 so you can free up time to invest in the Quadrant 2 actions that are required for you to lead your team to a better future.
Take some time today to write down what you did all week and determine what quadrant each action belongs. Then decide what your goals are for next week and determine what time wasters you need to avoid or limit. When you make this kind of planning a weekly habit, you’ll be Leading In NØ Time.
Lead The Positive Way Today Bill Durkin