Time Management Matrix

Time management experts such as Stephen Covey SR have developed a model called the Time Management Matrix. The model enables managers to prioritize their activities and use their time more effectively. With the help of this model they can assess the importance of their activities in terms of urgency.

Tasks can be classified as urgent/non-urgent or important/not important as shown below. Each of a manager's activities can be identified as one of four types, represented by the four quadrants of the time management matrix. Categorizing a manager's activities into these quadrants helps him identify what is important and avoid unimportant tasks and activities. It helps him prioritize important tasks and activities.

Activities in the first are important and urgent. This includes tasks that run on deadlines and important day-to-day tasks. The outcomes of this quadrant are stress, burnout and crisis management.

Activities in the second are important but not urgent. These activities are characterized by tasks such as preparation, planning, crisis resolution, and deadline avoidance. Working in this quadrant means a manager with the right attitude, vision, balance, discipline, control and few crises.

Activities in the third are not important but immediately put pressure on you and interfere with your more important activities. This includes responding to drop-in visitors, phone calls, meetings and mails that do not increase productivity and effectiveness. Operating in this quadrant is short-term focus, crisis management, futility of goals and plans, feelings of victimhood, and broken relationships.

Activities in the fourth are not important or urgent. Busy work, time wasters, junk mail and some phone calls are the activities of this quadrant. Operating in this quadrant means complete irresponsibility and over-reliance on others, in addition to the results in quadrant 3.

From studying the time management matrix, the following observations can be made:

1. Activities in Quadrant I and Quadrant II can be equally important. Some activities in Quadrant II may be, but are not necessarily, more important than activities in Quadrant I.

2. Activities in the quadrant I assume critical importance and highest priority.

3. Spending most of the time on activities in quadrant I leads to stress and burnout.

4. Focusing on activities in quadrant II may, in the long run, reduce activities in quadrant I.

5. Focusing on activities in Quadrant II means avoiding all unimportant activities in Quadrants III and IV.