Each day brings new challenges, all vying for your attention. It can be overwhelming, and many business owners fall into the trap of getting bogged down in their ever-expanding to-do list and don’t actually get things done.
Time management is important, but more so is having a sense of urgency. Identifying what’s urgent versus important – or those items that seem to be, but aren’t – is often the difference between driving your business forward to achieve goals, and spinning your wheels.
It’s all in the planning
If you wander into the office on Monday morning, fire up the desktop and dive straight into your emails – you’ll no doubt have half a dozen tasks in front of you that appear to be urgent. There are questions that need answers, invoices to be processed and updates to keep across.
When it comes to meeting goals that are truly important to us, we have to learn how to cultivate a sense of urgency around the tasks and activities that may not seem urgent, but are vitally important. And the key to doing this is in the planning.
The urgent-important matrix
To borrow a strategy from the late Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, try beginning your week by dividing your to-do list into four quadrants:
2: Not Urgent-Important
3: Urgent-Not Important
4: Not Urgent-Not Important
Quadrant 1 has all the most pressing tasks you’ll need to get to this week. It will comprise looming deadlines and unavoidable meetings. The crises that erupt without warning. You’ll always get these done because you have to.
You’ll save precious time by intentionally eliminating “stuff” from Quadrant 4. These are likely to be activities you do because you’re tired or need a break. Things like checking Facebook or scrolling the latest news headlines. We prioritise them in the moment and probably get some satisfaction from them – but they are not urgent or important.
Trickier still is cutting down on Quadrant 3, the tasks that are urgent but ultimately not that important. They’re the interruptions that happen throughout the day, such as phone calls that soak up time or meetings about issues that could have been resolved in an email.
Not urgent, but important
The key to long-term success in business is to start prioritising the tasks in Quadrant 2. You know they’re important, but the trouble is they don’t seem urgent right now. They matter in the long term but may yield no tangible benefits this week, this month, or even this year. Tasks like relationship building, long-term planning, marketing and communication with clients and prospects, and professional development activities fall into this quadrant. As does taking care of your health and getting in some physical exercise.
Effective time management that prioritises “not urgent-important” will likely lead to future business success, sooner. Long-term plans will fall into place, while understanding what is truly urgent and what’s not, will enable you to be more productive each day, each week, each month.
Your next steps…
Start a new week by drawing up your urgent-important quadrants and stick to it for at least a month to create a new habit. You may find a number of business management and tax strategy matters fall into Quadrant 2 – not urgent right now, but nevertheless important for the success of your business long term. If these matters take more time than you have, get the support you need. We’re here to help, give us a call.
At Core, we specialise in helping SMEs and growing and mature family-owned businesses to achieve success. Our logical 3-step advice framework, which involves consultation, recommendation and implementation, has helped countless clients to improve their revenue, cash flow and profitability. To find out more, please contact us on 07 5438 8088.