Anyone else out there have a hard time figuring out where to start sometimes? Well, that’s my main jam this morning. We just returned from a fantastic trip to the Keys for our ten year anniversary and I’m feeling half “Let’s chill like we’re still in the Keys” and half “Holy crap I have SO MUCH stuff to do and it all seems like it needs to be done RIGHT NOW!” You know what I’m talking about.
Well, I have this little tool that I decided to make all pretty and beautiful this morning in Photoshop (because I’m a nerd like that) and I thought, why not share it with my peoples? SO here it is. It’s called the Urgency-Importance Matrix. Ooh, fancy. Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated. It’s actually going to UNcomplicate your life and get you on the path to being more productive. Hey, I’m a therapist, I know what I’m talking about. 😉 Seriously though, let’s unpack this beauty…
Let me preface and say there are a million articles out there in the googles explaining this concept (which is attributed to President Dwight Eisenhower), so feel free to check those out. For those of you who are looking to get the quick easy fix on this idea (and who can blame you? we’ve got thiiiiinnngssss to doooooooo!), read on and see below for a link to the PDF I whipped up today. Maybe, go ahead and print it out so you can follow these easy steps and jot things down as you go along! Click on the image, it will take you to the pdf link.
So, how does this work? First, just to get your emotional state in a place where you feel you can actually function and breathe again, just DUMP out all the random things that are floating around in your head. “But it will take too long Jemma! There’s so much!” No, it won’t. Promise. That’s what this part is for. It’s to help you realize that in fact your to do list does have an end. So, get dumpin’!
Feel better? I thought so.
Now, you need to decide, are each of these items IMPORTANT, as in related to achieving your personal or professional goals (like preparing a presentation for a workshop or decluttering your kitchen cabinets)? Or are they about doing something for someone else (like make copies of those recipes your friend keeps begging you for)? Or are they more like, fun little things you can do (like research how you might put an addition onto your house when you don’t even own your house)? So, check off the little box next to “my goal” if it is important.
It might be hard to distinguish the importance of some of these. If you’re like me, you might think, “Well, my goal is to be a good friend, so I should probably go ahead and put this in the important category.” Right? Wrong. This is not to say that being a reliable, resourceful, and thoughtful person is not important. We’re talking about the priority list of life, people. We *have* to draw a line somewhere, or you’re still going to always feel like everything is priority number one. And as the hubster says, when everything is priority, nothing is priority. There is a time and a place for doing lots of fun (and not so fun) little favors for your friends and family. We schedule them. Just like we’ll schedule the important (my goal) stuff.
Ok. Now that you’ve distinguished whether it is important, we need to identify what is URGENT. So, jot down a little due date next to each item. If you don’t really know when it’s due but you feel like it’s really urgent still, just put a “?” in the spot. Urgent tasks are going to be either important or not important. The important ones are the ones that you’ve likely just procrastinated or forgotten (I am a pot. You are a kettle. Both, so so black) OR they’re crises that arose without warning. They’re due, like right now! Again, with the feelings. One thing on my to do list that I feel a huge amount of pressure to complete is my budget review for last month, this month’s planning, and my tithe. My guilty perfectionist conscience says, “You should have had this completed May first! Shame on you, I can’t believe you haven’t done your tithe yet!” Well, that’s a motivating attitude! BTW, studies have shown that *shaming* is NOT motivating. I’ll be writing more about that some day I’m sure. My point is, that truly and honestly, I do need to get my budget done, I do want to get my tithe in. Holding the belief that it *has* to be today, isn’t going to make me feel any more motivated and if I have other more important & urgent items that take up all my time, all I’ll be left with at the end of the day is a sense of shame. Let’s be realistic. I’m going to give myself some grace. Will you do the same for yourself? I find I operate much better under grace than under shame.
We’re almost done people. We’d be done a lot sooner if I would quit going off on (really interesting) tangents, wouldn’t we? Ok then, moving on.
You remember your quadrants from algebra, right? Good. Start putting those puppies in their boxes. Urgent & Important go in quadrant one. These get done first. They are goal-related, your goal-related. They are also urgent. They demand your immediate attention. They need to be done today.
Important & Not Urgent go in quadrant two. They are also related to your goals but they don’t have to be done right now or today. These, you need to schedule. Go ahead and find a few spots on your calendar prior to their due dates to get them done. I always underestimate how long these things are going to take, so if you’re like me, give yourself an extra 25% in time.
Quadrant three, that’s Urgent and Not Important. This is the trickiest category, I feel. These things aren’t related to your goals yet they seem like they need doing *right now*! These should be considered for deletion, delegation, or scheduling. It’s ok to say “no” to certain things. I once foolishly volunteered to make someone a scarf. They paid me for the yarn, because I didn’t mind doing the labor for free (haha, maybe when I’m a grandmother…), and then a month passed by, two months. I mailed them a check back for what they paid me with an apology. It was stressing me out. I needed to have said “no” in the first place. It’s also ok to say it later. Delegation might mean asking someone who is better at the task than you, hiring someone, or handing it back over to the person who requested it. Finally, it’s ok to schedule in some time to do things like respond to emails, post personal vacation pics to facebook, and call your best friend Nelly. The deal is, you don’t want all these little guys interrupting your “work day”. Set aside a period of time at the beginning and end of each day to blast through some of these items.
Neither Important Nor Urgent – this is Pinterest y’all. This is, “I think I’ll put my closet in rainbow color order.” This looks like, “I should find some new recipes for Christmas dinner…in May.” These are things that neither help you achieve your personal and professional goals nor do they need to be done right now. Sure, sure. Pinterest is a tool. But it is also a time-suck. Use it wisely. I’d save these items for whenever your “free time” is. And don’t tell me you don’t have any free time. Free time is when you’re doing this kind of stuff, it’s just in 3 minute chunks all over the place. Consolidate your time so you can feel more productive and then more deserving of this “free time”.
It’s time for me to fill my sheet out. I’ll post a pic of it here so you can see.
As you can see, I caught myself making things “important” that weren’t actually related to my personal and professional goals!! Sure, I want to have a clean house. But I don’t think it’s a goal, per se. Especially when it is neverending and I use it all the time as a way to procrastinate doing other more important quadrant one items! You also can see where I accidentally put “airBnB reviews” in the important not urgent category. In reality, they’re the opposite. While yes, I want to be a considerate, thorough person and it would only take a second (because I’m not long-winded at all…) to do it, the truth is, it’s not related to my personal and professional goals, it’s just a nagging little thing that I can plan to do later, once I’ve knocked out some more of these more important goals. So, there you have it, folks. I guess I better get started on quadrant one! I’d love to see your filled out sheets and hear your stories. Feel free to post in the comments or email me at hi at yellowthere.com. 😉 Tata for now!