Why Time Management Isn’t About Time At All

by rc

The problem with time is we focus too much on it. We schedule our calendars from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. If there is an hour open, we tend to fill it.

Before reading on, take a minute to answer the following question:

What is one thing you don’t do that if you did it on a regular basis, would make a positive difference in your business?

Urgent vs Not Important

“The essence of self-discipline is to do the important thing rather than the urgent thing.” –Barry Werner

We have been wired to believe that anything marked “urgent” is important. That can’t be further from the truth. A highly effective person thinks less about time management and more about personal management. Let’s face it. Whether it’s time spent at work or time spent outside the office, time is personal. Fortunately, there’s a tool to help you take your long list of to-do’s and identify what’s most important.

How to Use the Eisenhower Time Management Matrix

Named after President Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Time Management Matrix is a tool to identify where time is spent on certain activities and where time should be spent the most. Take a look below:


This matrix focuses on two factors: Urgent and Important. All four quadrants categorize important and not important tasks between urgent and not urgent. Quadrant 1 - Dealing with time-sensitive matters like helping a coworker in need, scheduling a doctor’s appointment for a sick child, or meeting an upcoming deadline.

Quadrant 2 - Building strong relationships, talking with clients, organizing, planning a campaign, or looking for ways to improve processes.

Quadrant 3 - Dealing with all interruptions, spending too much time checking your email, attending unimportant meetings.

Quadrant 4 - Doing work with no results, scrolling through Facebook, and other irresponsible tasks that have no positive results or impact.

A highly effective person spends a majority of time in Quadrant 1 and 2 while less effective people spend time in Quadrant 3 and Quadrant 4. Organized and motivated people tend to fall into Quadrant 3, unexpectedly, which leads to frustration. Think about your inbox — we all struggle with email. Email — as far as I see it — is meant to be an efficient way to communicate important things that are not urgent. Unfortunately, according to the chart above, email pulls us into Quadrant 3 like a sucking vortex. This is because we’ve allowed this tool to work against us. If too much time is spent in the urgent but not important quadrants, we end up with a long list of incomplete tasks and poor/negative results.

If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a HELL NO

Tasks labeled “urgent” act on us. They have a tendency to control our behavior. Not important tasks labeled as “urgent” pull people into Quadrant 3. Ultimately, “urgent” tasks can be deceiving. How do we distinguish what urgent tasks are important? People who tend to spend time in Quadrant 3 can sometimes be classified as “people pleasers.” They act on what’s important to others, but not what’s important for their work or personal development. When it comes down to it, it’s your responsibility to prioritize tasks that drive the best results, so why allow someone else to control the outcome? To understand how to drive the best results, take a look at the image below:

Whether it’s urgent or not urgent, if you spend a majority of time in Quadrant 3 and 4, you’ll lose focus, break relationships, and miss out on the time you should be spending on urgent and important tasks. Look at Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2. Quadrant 1 defines the results of addressing mistakes, helping a team member out in a moment of panic or even working on a time-sensitive task. Quadrant 2 drives the highest level of positive results like having a clear vision, more balance, and a feeling of control. I don’t know about you, but Quadrant 2 seems like a nice place to hang out! When an urgent matter calls on you, ask yourself what result this task will drive. You’ll know instantly if it’s not important. A motto I came across recently is: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no. If you don’t believe a task will drive important results, delegate or ditch the task. Now … think about your answer to the question asked in the beginning. Do you feel you can add it your schedule? Where will you make adjustments to free up time for what’s most important?