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How to find the time

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By Robin Brothers and Jennifer Kernan

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. – Michael Altahuler

We all struggle with time management. At The Rainmaker Cos., we teach a course on time management, yet staying on top of it can be a struggle for everyone, including my team members and myself.

Life today is busier than ever with work, kids, school, sports, activities, electronic distractions, spouses, friends and so much more, and it leaves us without much time for anything else. And when we are working so fervently to play catch-up from past activities we haven’t completed or begun, then we wind up in crisis mode for a large portion of our day.

Stephen Covey, in his book “First Things First,” explains the time management matrix, originally used by Dwight Eisenhower, and how to use the grid to effectively manage your time. There are four quadrants; quadrant one is urgent and important, quadrant two is important but not urgent; quadrant three is urgent but not important and quadrant four is neither important or urgent.

Most of us spend a lot of our time in quadrants one, three and four. I am sure you can think of many projects that take up your work/home time, from getting kids to their activities to spending time browsing your social media sites. This is what a lot of us do — rush to get a project done and then reward ourselves with some down time. But the ultimate goal is to live in quadrant two. And that takes tactical and strategic planning.

A co-worker spoke with me about an exercise he does in our classes. He takes blue painter’s tape and lays it out on the desk, creating his own time management matrix and putting things in one of the four quadrants. When he is finished, he gets the trash can and presto — quadrant four is gone. With quadrant three, he combs through the pile, throwing away anything not important, but careful not to discard something that actually needs a response. Then he marches on to quadrant one, and since most of the things here are deadline driven, he checks off those deadline-driven tasks. Once all of this is done, he is now able to plan strategically for the coming days and focus his time on relationship building or professional/personal development projects.

I took this activity to heart and decided to make four folders in my email list. It was unbelievable how quickly I could drop 800-plus items from my inbox into one of four folders (those quadrants three and four items), and within a few hours, I was able to move forward and out of the past.

I challenge you to take a few minutes and build your own matrix. How many tasks are in quadrant three or four that you may be spending too much time in? How many of those things can you sort through fairly quickly? And then how many urgent or deadline-driven tasks can you complete so they are not looming over your head?

Planning, prevention and creating new opportunities all create openings for quality time today and in the future. I can only imagine what I might be able to accomplish. Oh wait, I’m heading into quadrant four — daydreaming. Back to sorting through my four folders and enjoying the peace quadrant two is bringing me.

Robin Brothers and Jennifer Kernan, The Rainmaker Companies.