I’ve been delivering workshops on productivity and leadership in my day job this week and inevitably the question came up about how to deal with changing priorities. One of the most useful “classic” productivity tools is the Urgent/Important matrix. Basically it’s a way of sifting your collected, Getting Things Done or Running List of all your tasks and to do’s into a triage system that allows you to prioritise clearly.
Here’s a sample to do list if you want to play along!
– Make christening gift for christening this Sunday
– Get headcount numbers to CEO by this afternoon (his deadline, not mine)
– Write presentation for meeting tomorrow
– Respond to request from colleague for meeting
– Voicemail notifications – there are four of these from the last day I haven’t listened to yet
– Pick up dry cleaning
– Pay credit card bill
– Comment on article someone sent me about talent development
I’m going to also say at this point the I try to abide by the “two minute rule” outlined in Eat That Frog – if it takes less than two minutes, do it straight away.
– Make christening gift for christening this Sunday. This is important, not urgent – so it gets deferred and scheduled.
– Get headcount numbers to CEO by this afternoon (his deadline, not mine) – I use a stakeholder version of this matrix to decide that the CEO is high priority and high involvement. Therefore this goes in urgent, not important, and delegated to someone in my team to report back. For someone else, I might also try to renegotiate this deadline.
– Write presentation for meeting tomorrow – urgent, important. Nothing worse than winging it.
– Respond to request from colleague for meeting – two minute task. Schedule and cross off.
– Voicemail notifications – there are four of these from the last day I haven’t listened to yet. Two minute task. Schedule, cross off and triage any callbacks required,
– Pick up dry cleaning – not urgent, important – schedule
– Pay credit card bill – not urgent, important – schedule and automate for the future.
– Comment on article someone sent me about talent development. – not important, not urgent. Shouldn’t even be on the list.
So that leaves me with four minutes of jobs and about five minutes of scheduling tasks before I can focus on the main event – writing tomorrow’s presentation. Feels a lot better already! If you try out the urgent important matrix, I’d love to know how you find it: let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading –