I want to start by saying I hope everyone is OK during this trying time. I know this has been a difficult month for each and every one of you, myself included. Some of you may not have been able to collect the information we talked about last month and put times to that information. I will continue with this month’s installment on Time Management as planned and we will catch up later if needed. Last month I introduced you to the Eisenhower Matrix. This is a tool that I use for a lot of different things, from decision making to time management. I introduced you to the four quadrants:

I asked you to list the activities that you did each day and put the amount of time you spent on each of these beside them. Remember, we never have more than 24 hours in each day.  We can’t manage the number of minutes in our day, but we can manage how we spend those minutes. I hope each of you has some idea where your minutes are going. Looking back on my log, I can already tell you most of the things I listed fell under Quadrant 1 – urgent and important. But are they really? For me to figure this out, I had to list some criteria for each of the quadrants. Each of us will have different criteria; I can’t tell you what criteria to use in your quadrants.  Each of us will have to ask ourselves what is urgent and important. I will give some examples of each and discuss them. Many times we will need to ask our bosses what is urgent and important to them, as well. Those will be the things that are out of our control. In our time management, we are looking at the activities that are within our control.

Quadrant 1 - Urgent and Important

These are the activities we are required to attend. These could be as simple as a tier meeting or daily start up meeting:

  • Major breakdowns inside the plant
  • Weekly budget meetings
  • Planning and scheduling meetings
  • Daily meetings with management

Quadrant 2 - not Urgent but Important

These are the activities important to you or to someone else, but not something that has to be done immediately:

  • Monthly budget report
  • Monthly overtime forecast
  • Weekly labor forecast
  • Craftspeople appraisals (as long as they are not due today)

Quadrant 3 - not Important but Urgent

These activities have to get done. One way to save time is to delegate an activity, or at least part of an activity, such as information gathering, to someone else before making a decision. You may not need to be the one to make a decision, and can delegate that.

These activities must be handled immediately:

  • Someone needs a question answered
  • A craftsperson needs help with a decision
  • Needing to list people working overtime on the coming weekend

Quadrant 4 - not Important and not Urgent

These type of activities take time every day:

  • Attending a meeting just for the sake of going
  • Attending meetings to stay informed, although meeting notes will be emailed
  • Researching on the computer
  • Waiting on phone calls in your office

I can promise you that the criteria listed beside each quadrant will be different in each of your cases. All I ask is that you get some type of criteria in mind for each quadrant, so that we can start looking at how long it takes to do each activity, and start working on the time spent. The time spent is where we can make changes. Here are just a couple of examples to help you understand.

Quadrant 1

Major breakdowns inside the plant (two hours and thirty minutes). The question I ask myself is, what value did I add by being there this long? Is this something expected of me by higher management? Could I have retrieved the information I needed and then passed it along? Could someone else have kept me informed? How could I have been value added?

Daily meetings with management (morning, afternoon one hour). Do we have an agenda to follow? Am I needed for the entire meeting? Are the same questions being asked at each meeting? Do I have the correct information requested each day (are there some things asked each day)? Do I just answer the questions, or do I give too much detail and get into discussions?

You get the idea of what I am doing here. I am simply asking questions as to how I am using the hours in the day. I want you to do the same.

First, come up with criteria for each quadrant that you think will fit your role.

Second, start placing your activities in each of the quadrants. Don’t be surprised by how many will end up in Quadrant 1. Most will start there, but after you move to the third step, you will start to see some of them moving around.

Third, start asking questions like we did for Quadrant 1 .

Next month, we will be talking about some common activities we all share, such as emails, meetings that we lead, and routine tasks. We will look at a few of these and I will share how I have made them more productive and time-saving. The majority of our time saving efforts can be found by evaluating common activities that we actually have control over.

I know each of our lives have been changed or challenged by the Corona Virus. I hope each and every one of you and your families are dealing with this change well. I have friends working from home for the first time, and I have advised them to stay as normal in their routine as possible: get up as if they were going to work each day, take breaks and lunches as if they were at the plant. Something as simple as this will help us stay in a routine and help us be more productive, keeping anxiety at a minimum. If you have any questions, please don’t think twice about reaching out to me or Marshall Institute. We are here to help in any way possible to help get through this change in times.

Read the full Time Management Series from David Hunt!