Managing time seems like an oxymoron because no one has figured out a way to stop or speed it. Managing tasks and events is a skill that each professional on your team probably struggles with in today’s work structure. The questionable habit of over-filling job descriptions with responsibilities has resulted in impossible targets. Cultures that create expectations to postpone vacation, prioritize work and to be ‘always on the clock’ are common.
You continue to have employees who do not meet deadlines or who shortcut time-required quality under pressure to check a box. Hoping they will find their personal magic-bullet to overcome these challenges, you keep ‘time management’ on their development plans and suggest trainings and tricks to help them control their productivity.
Resurrecting an old language within your group may help. Identifying activity by the quadrants of urgency & importance is not a new concept, and currently Covey probably has built the most extensive content around it. But using this language as a way to identify priority for your team may be a better way to create successful understanding, expectation and accountability for effectively using time.
Urgent & Important
Priorities that should be considered urgent as well as important in your work-world may be obvious to you, but often they are not as obvious to your employees. Discussions around the situations that fall into this category can make an amazing difference as individuals remove from this quadrant items they had assumed should be there.
Urgent but Not Important
Failing to talk, as a group, about this waste of time you witness in your team is just irresponsible. If you see people continue to respond to unimportant items with urgency, they obviously do not understand the priorities of their job. Strengthening their judgment and clarifying expectations in this area is a core responsibility of a manager. And you will be doing yourself a favor if you do it with group discussions to ensure no one is driving their own agendas in this area under the table.
Not Important & Not Urgent
Making this ‘quadrant priority’ a common language allows you to easily question or coach individuals who make mistakes in prioritizing, who have time-wasting habits, or those who are stealing time from others. This is often where most time-drain happens. People need breaks and fun to function as an effective group. When there is no plan to meet these needs, individuals still take time for them. With group discussion, you have more control over incorporating them in ways that are not harmful to productivity.
Important but Not Urgent
For many, this is the most difficult quadrant to use effectively. It is different in each culture, and it may not even look the same for the individuals in your team. Often, for your most valued employees, the time they spend here is critical to business success. Creating a team language with discussions about how this quadrant drives team objectives can literally drive increases in productivity and results.
Managing what one does with time is indeed an individual effort, but creating priority should not be done in a silo. Let’s connect if you want to talk about ideas on facilitating these discussions or about making this time-tested concept a results-producing reality in your team!