We all say we never have enough time. But we all have just as much time as anybody else. It comes down to how we manage it. Time management is a skill that comes from discipline and practice. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be learned. If you actively invest time in time management you will actually create more time. Most people say they do not have time to do the things they need to do, without realising that it is because they are not prepared to pay this small upfront price to reap the significant rewards later.
Stephen Covey’s time management matrix sections off all tasks into four Quadrants, according to their importance and urgency. Reducing the number of tasks that appear in low value quadrants, while spending more time on high value activities, effectively creates more time. High value activities include delegating, coaching, and self-development.
The four box time management matrix
According to Covey’s four box time management grid:
Depending on their role, most people are likely to spend most of their time operating in Quadrant1 and Quadrant 3. This means they are letting urgency take precedence over importance.
Delegating, coaching, and self-development are tasks that should be included in Quadrant 1 but are mostly shifted to Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 4. This should not be the case. Think about all the tasks you need to complete in a day. In what Quadrant are they? Where do you actually spend your time, and where do you think you should most efficiently spend it? If you had more time, what could you do with it?
Delegation can minimise the time you spend in Quadrant1 and Quadrant 3. You might think that delegation is not an attractive option for two reasons. First, time will have to be spent on briefing the other person or teaching them how to do the work. Second, there is high risk that the person you have delegated the job to will not complete it up to standard. But think of the compound effect. Over time, hundreds of hours could be saved, meaning the upfront time spent will be worth it in the end.
Don't delegate only undesirable tasks to junior team members. Look to strategically delegate work that can both free up your time and develop a junior team member’s skills. Ideal tasks include those are not overly complex but take up time to complete, or tasks that require detail and attention and which can then be checked again.
Similar to delegation, coaching is an activity that may initially seem to take up more time than it creates. But not all coaching has to be formal. It can occur at any time with team members. Often the other person has a problem they do not know how to solve, but do not realise that they have the answer within them.
The coach’s role is to give the other person a safe space to talk through potential options with someone they trust. Judgment, jumping to conclusions, and telling the other person what to do is not part of a coaching relationship. It will help you a lot if you invest some time studying and practising how to coach successfully. It will pay off in the long run by helping you develop a coaching culture with more junior members.
Benefits of coaching include empowerment of other team members, improving the overall performance of the team, and increasing own effectiveness as a leader. And - most importantly - it will save you time.
Finally, development planning is something that we often push aside to make more time to do ‘urgent’ things. But you should make development planning a priority. Without a development plan or road map (what we call a Personal Growth Plan at HFL), how can you know where you want to go and how to get there?
Development planning should be regarded as an important and urgent task. With the time you have created through efficient time management you will now be able to create a development plan that will show you your progressing towards your development goals.
Where to start
Block out time in your calendar to complete the tasks that you know are important. Then make sure you do them. What is the right amount of time to spend in a week to complete the tasks in each of the four Quadrants? Keep a time log or a diary of where you actually spend your time and compare it to where you think you should ideally spend it. With a little bit of discipline you will be surprised at the results. You will see the benefits almost immediately.
It is all about moving from low value tasks to high value tasks. That is how you create extra time. It really is that simple. There is no great secret to time management - just a bit of discipline. Remember, every person on this planet has exactly the same amount of time. It is all about using it most efficiently.
For questions, comments, or to request a copy of the Personal Growth Plan template, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.