How Good Are Your Time Management Skills?

Posted on April 16, 2011


Source: Leadership Resource Center

Note From Rafik Beekun: This is a small excerpt of an excellent site on Time Management which also includes a questionnaire to self assess your time management skills.

Busy leaders have two options on how to structure their work day: to be reactive to meet urgent demands, or to be proactive by focusing on what they decide is important.

In his seminal self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey addressed three categories of “habits”:stephen-covey-7-habits-of-highly-effective-people.jpg

  • Moving from dependence to independence, or self mastery
  • Interdependence, and
  • Self-rejuvenation

According to Covey, moving from dependence to independence involves three habits:

  • Being Proactive
  • Beginning with the End in Mind and
  • Putting First Things First

firstthingsfirstbook.jpg All have time management implications for leaders. In a later book, First Things First, Covey suggests that time management is actually personal management — the art of managing ourselves. Personal self-management demands organizing and executing around priorities, classifying all tasks as either urgent or not urgent, and then as either important or not important. Those screaming for action are urgent, and those critical tasks that contribute to mission, vision, values and high priority goals are important. Using a quadrant matrix, Covey defines four categories of tasks, in Quadrants 1 — 4, as shown.

important & urgent.gif Urgent tasks include a screaming email that demands immediate attention, the impromptu request that will just take “a minute” but is finished two hours later, a report or spreadsheet that you have to have in hand before you walk into a meeting, the proposal for a just discovered business opportunity with a hard submission deadline. . . Urgent tasks can be characterized as firefights, busywork, short-term and typically “easier” than the intimidating project work that loads your to do list. We are distracted by and drawn to urgent tasks because they make us feel needed, provide closure quickly so we can cross something off the to do list, and can often make us feel important because we are able to personally resolve a problem. They keep us oh so busy. At the end of the day of dealing with urgent tasks, we are tired, a bit frustrated, out of time, and wondering why we feel so anxious about the still looming “real work” that still needs to get done.

Then there is important work. It doesn’t always give you a rush of adrenaline. It typically involves a lot more thinking than doing, and honest assessment about where you are, where you want to be and options for getting there. It can be mentally draining, plain old hard work, that may not be immediately noticeable to those around you. In the middle of the important work, it is sometimes too tempting to avoid sneaking a quick look at something urgent — like your email (there MIGHT be something urgent there to take care of!). Or, if your day involves you or those around you rushing around with “hair on fire” it may feel that it is impossible to focus on what’s important versus what is urgent.

Please click here to go the Leadership Resource Center, and hone your time management skills.