Advanced Time Management Part 2
Variations of the time category quadrant have been around for a long time and it is a concept used by many self improvement gurus over the years. The image here is a visual representation of the four categories we tend to spend our time in. The idea is to pay attention to what we are doing with our time throughout each of our days and then do our best to eliminate situations that cause a drain on our forward progress, and deliberately spend the most amount of time engaged in activities or situations that fit in the category that will enable us to accomplish a life of purpose driven success.
Simple, right? I know, I know, easier said than done. Lets go a little further here and see if we can create some greater clarity for you.
By paying attention to the kinds of activities we engage in throughout our days, we can get ourselves to a point where we are responding to situations that come our way, instead of reacting. Do you understand the difference there? A response is a predetermined action in relation to the unexpected, while a reaction is usually spontaneous, and often will end up being the opposite of what we really wanted.
How many times have you ever said to yourself, “I always think of what to do or what to say after it is too late?” Well, using the time category quadrant as a means of taking inventory of the kinds of actions that create our day, we can enable our selves to be in a position to respond deliberately, the way we want to, instead of reacting in ways that we don’t want. Does that make sense?
Let’s see if we can clarify this even more by taking a look at the kinds of events or situations, or even relationships that fit in to each of the quadrant categories.
Quadrant 1 - Urgent and Important
As you can see this first quadrant includes situations that are considered or perhaps perceived as Urgent AND Important.
The kinds of situations that legitimately fit into this quadrant are genuine emergencies. These are situations that place such a high demand on our time and priority, that we must drop anything else we are doing, no matter what it is, and pay attention to the situation that is Urgent and Important. An example might be like:
- The house is on fire, I have to drop what I am doing and get out now!
- My kid just cut his arm and is bleeding profusely, I need to drop what I am doing and stop the bleeding now!
- Sirens are blaring that a tornado may touch down, I need to drop what I am doing and seek safe shelter now!
- A big truck just rear ended my car, I need to call 911 on my cell phone now!
Now, unfortunately, many of us tend to allow other situations that come up in our lives to take priority as if they were a legitimate Quadrant 1 category emergency, when in fact they are not. All that ends up happening is we waste a lot of time not getting what is truly important done. Here are some examples:
- Maybe you have a kid who always fails to get up with their alarm and misses the bus to school regularly, so every time it happens, you drop everything to rush them to school as if it were a quadrant 1 category emergency.
- Maybe there is someone who works on a team with you at your work who always procrastinates their assignments to the last minute, causing you to have to drop what you are doing to rescue them so that the team does not look bad.
- Maybe you put off paying your bills because of how depressed you allow yourself to feel when you pay them, and you end up having to rush to the utility office at the very last minute to keep your power from being turned off and having to pay an extra fee.
- Maybe you have a parent or sibling who is always calling you in the middle of your work day, expecting you to listen while they complain about Aunt Hildegaard’s latest embarrassing antics.
Quadrant 2 - Not Urgent but Important
In the Quadrant 2 category, this is where situations or events and also relationships in our lives are perceived as Important, but not really Urgent to work on right now. These kinds of situations really need to take a precedence in our lives, but because they are not pressing, are not vitally urgent, we tend to procrastinate and put these things off to a later time. We have lots of good intentions to get to them eventually, when we finally have some time after dealing with all the drama that we inadvertently treat as quadrant 1 category situations. You know what they say about the “road to you-know-where” being paved with good intentions. Right? Because we live in a world where we often tend to react based on worries and fears instead of responding based on purposeful planning and acting, we often tend to neglect the kinds of things that belong in Quadrant 2.
Here are some ideas of legitimate quadrant 2 category activities:
- Making plans and prioritizing your time for the new week, before the week begins.
- Taking time out to visualize, write, and then read often and internalize your Vision for your future.
- Making time to spend with your spouse or a son or daughter who needs some extra love and attention.
- Making time to pray and study the scriptures in order to increase your spiritual strength and knowledge.
- Taking time out to write in your journal as a means to clarify all the stuff bouncing around in your head so you can see and think clearly to take more decisive actions.
- Setting up an automatic pay system for your most important financial obligations.
- Taking time to teach your kids how to plan out and act on their priorities.
Quadrant 3 - Urgent but Not Important
The kinds of activities that legitimately fit in the category of Quadrant 3 are the situations that distract or interrupt us, which we permit to get in the way of quadrant 2 activity. These are the things we permit to intrude on time that needs to be spent on important work obligations and commitments to other people. The truth is every single one of the examples in the Quadrant 1 category that we tend to treat as Quadrant 1 emergencies really fit here in the category of Quadrant 3. Just to be thorough, here are some more examples of Quadrant 3 category situations:
- Remembering you have to finish an assignment from work or school right in the middle of an important conversation with your spouse, and leaving that conversation to go do it.
- Allowing the telephone or door bell every time they ring, to interrupt you when you are busily engaged in another legitimate quadrant 2 activity.
- Not turning off your cell phone in the middle of an important meeting or conversation.
- Choosing to go play or go shopping with your friends instead of following through on a promise to spend more time with your kids, or cleaning the garage for your spouse, or being home on time when you said you would be.
And then last, but certainly not least is the category of Quadrant 4. What do you think might fit into this category? Let’s find out.
Quadrant 4 - Not Urgent and Not Important
Sometimes we call this the subconscious category or even the mind numbing or brain dead category. You see, the Quadrant 4 category is where we do time wasting activities that have no redeeming value and no legitimate purpose in creating and living a life that truly matters to us. This category may contain things like:
- Wasting hours and hours flipping stations on TV with the remote control
- Putting around in your garage, workshop or craft room not really doing much of anything except avoiding taking action on things that really matter.
- Playing video games over and over, forever on end...(Hey honey, I’m up to level 693!)
- Endless text messaging on your cell phone or endless forwarded junk e-mail reading.
- Spending lots of extra time in bed sleeping for hours longer than your body legitimately needs.
- Wasting time reading the newspaper going through the horoscopes and crossword puzzles instead of figuring out prioritized actions to plan for your day or week.
- Using drugs or alcohol to get high as a means of escaping responsibility or reality instead of learning to face life and deal with it.
It is important, especially for you Improvers, that you understand that the kinds of things we are talking about here that fit into the Quadrant 4 category are things that are done to an extreme. These are activities that waste time and have no socially redeeming value. There is a difference between taking time out to unwind after a hard day at work, by catching a show on television before taking time to prepare and plan for the next day, vs. spending mind numbing hours flipping through all 10,000 stations your cable company provides for you. There is a difference between sleeping a little extra because you have a touch of the flu or a bad cold, vs. being lazy and not getting up because your bed feels so good. There are times that we have to take time out to relax and unwind, and that might include taking some time to read an article or two in the newspaper to keep abreast of current events, or taking time to do something fun but productive in your workshop or craft room. These kinds of activities actually fit into Quadrant 2... activities that renew, refresh, allow you to re-energize and strengthen your ability to keep going forward with other purposeful events and commitments. Hopefully you are clear on that.
So, now you have an idea what the Time Category Quadrants are all about. Now that you know about them, whether this is repeat information you’ve been exposed to before, or new information you never heard before, the idea now is to analyze each activity you are engaged in on a daily basis. At the end of the day, write in your journal about what you did, and what category of the Time Quadrant each activity fits into. Doing this should enable you to create a greater awareness and increase your ability to spend more time engaged in planning and taking action with activities, situations and relationships that fit legitimately into the category of Quadrant 2.
Now that we understand better what kinds of activities legitimately fit into Quadrant 1, it might be a good idea to sit down and write out what kinds of things, what kinds of emergencies could possibly happen that would require your immediate attention in Quadrant 1, and make plans for what you would do if such a situational emergency were to arise. For example, maybe you could sit down with your family and map out all the escape routes to follow in your home should there ever be a fire. Teach younger kids how to call 911 or get help from a neighbor if you are not home to deal with an emergency such as a severe cut or broken arm or leg. Plan out ahead of time how you are going to respond to Quadrant 1 category situations so that if by some unfortunate chance they should happen, you and your loved ones can respond with direction and purpose, instead of reacting in a panic. Does that make sense?
You can also start taking actions that will permit you to delegate elsewhere, and or minimize or even eliminate situations that fit in the category of Quadrant 3, and take conscientious, purposeful actions to completely eliminate any kind of Quadrant 4 activities.
By creating awareness of where you spend your time, you should be better able to take control and manage your time more effectively. Doing so should enable you to spend as much time as possible engaged in quadrant 2 category type activities. That then will help you to create a much more meaningful life that truly matters, filled with a clearer sense of purpose and direction.
Now you know how to do it. Will things change over night for you? Maybe... but not likely. The main thing is to be aware, pay attention and make conscientious decisions. Take actions a little bit at time, using courage and commitment, until you have your time mastered and are living the life you want to on purpose.
It might be helpful for you to now go back and re examine again the information contained in the instructions for
Advanced Time Management Part I, and continue taking action to make your life happen on purpose.
Good luck! Have fun! I’ll be watching for you in Quadrant 2.
© Copyright Adam Wade, 2005 - 2017