Updated September 26th, 2023
Being in a leadership role means you must learn how to manage your time strategically.
You must be able to step back and prioritize tasks accordingly to ensure you are focusing your attention on things that matter.
I’m going to share a strategy that I have used for many years to help me prioritize tasks and ultimately better manage my time.
This strategy will help you hit the ground running and become a much more effective and efficient leader.
Before moving forward, I highly recommend downloading my FREE Guide to Being An Effective Team Leader, where you’ll learn the five actionable steps new managers must take to gain clarity, build relationships, and lead their new teams effectively.
The strategy that I have been using and teaching other people in leadership roles to prioritize their time and tasks better is called “The 4 Quadrants of Time Management.”
You may have heard of this way to prioritize your time and tasks before. There are several versions, but they all boil down to grouping tasks together based on there importance and urgency.
Some other versions you may have heard of are the Eisenhower matrix version, Stephen Covey’s “Quadrants of Extraordinary Productivity,” or Dave Ramsey’s Time Management Matrix.
I am going to show you a mash-up of these different methods. I’ve taken pieces from all these versions that I have found to be helpful and implemented them into my work life to help me stay on track, focus, and ensure no tasks are missed.
Here is a quick look at the quadrant chart divided up by importance and urgency. I will go through each quadrant, and what types of tasks fall into each area.
This quadrant is where we spend most of our time, which is unfortunate because this is a reactionary quadrant where everything placed here is not only important but also urgent.
Focusing on these tasks all day long will leave you exhausted at the end of the day, and it will feel like you had a chaotic day that you spent putting out fires. These tasks trigger the fight mode in you and cause you to stay in a reactionary zone.
Tasks in this quadrant might be meeting last-minute deadlines, sudden staffing changes, an upset client that requires your attention, a power outage, or an internet/ phone outage. It will look different for every industry and for various positions within that industry, but it is the same general idea for everyone. These are important tasks that need to be dealt with right away.
The Franklin Convey team did a study and found that 27% of people spend their time consistently in a reactionary state. So, if you find yourself relating to what I’m saying, you are in good company.
This is the quadrant of distraction; Dave Ramsey also calls it the quadrant of deception.
This is where tasks that are not important but urgent fall into. You might be thinking, well, that doesn’t make much sense. How can something be not important, but yet considered urgent?
An excellent example of something that is not really important to you but is urgent is one of your team members coming to you with a problem of theirs that needs your help to solve. While this problem may not be important to you, it is urgent that you help your team member solve it.
When you are hold a leadership role, you may often find yourself in this situation. It could even be attending meetings that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. We’ve all attended a few of them. It could also take the form of emails that aren’t that important but require you to respond quickly.
The same study by Franklin Covey shows that we spend around 23% of our time in this quadrant. Being in a reactive mode tending to things that are not necessarily important to us but do require action on our part.
This is the quadrant that represents waste/ default. It contains tasks that are not important and not urgent. Many people want to be productive but either get worn out from being in a reactionary state for too long or are unsure what to do, so they start to engage in activities or tasks that don’t really matter or are not urgent at all.
This is something that I see a lot with managers. They fall back into doing the tasks they did before they were managers out of sheer comfort when they should be delegating these tasks to their team members.
This is the quadrant where you want to spend most of your time. It is also known as the quadrant of extraordinary productivity or, as Dave Ramsey calls it, the quadrant of leadership.
These tasks are important but not urgent. What makes these tasks important yet not urgent is that they are proactive tasks. You can fill this quadrant with tasks that help you create a strategic plan, like 1-on-1 meetings, developing yourself, and learning how to help others develop within their roles.
Self-care is the theme in this quadrant. Let yourself chill and get out of the reactionary state. It will allow you to recover and not feel burnt out.
Taking care of yourself is important even in the workplace. Learning some habits or completing tasks that further your knowledge and help you grow will improve your focus, and leave you feeling more in control.
Spending more time on tasks in quadrant 2 will stop you from falling into the trap of always being in a reactionary mode, which in turn will keep your team members in reactionary modes. Your team reflects your leadership, and if you are constantly reacting, so will they, leaving room for lots of mistakes.
Becoming a proactive leader by applying these time management strategies for leaders will help your team to produce high-impact results.
There you have it, my 4 Quadrants of Time Management Strategies for leaders. Take a week, track what tasks you are spending the majority of your time doing, this will help you determine if you spend your time being reactive or proactive.
If you want to learn more in-depth about becoming a more proactive leader, book a call with me to learn about the new manager program I run and how you may benefit from it.
February 11, 2020