That’s exactly right- Doc Brown, Time Machines and a President by the name of Eisenhower.
Welcome to your next upgraded blog post*.
It starts off simply enough – there isn’t seemingly enoughtime to do the things you want to actually do. You know, those things you have been waiting forever to achieve.
Like progressively building up that explosiveness to somewhat, possibly slam dunk almost like Mike, or solving that complex theorem to ultimately benefit society.
Or, finally go hang gliding with migrating geese.
Time is something that constantly eludes us and is a non-renewable resource we desperately wish we could regenerate or transfer. (However, after watching Olivia Wilde and Justin Timberlake in a future where this happens I really don’t recommend us trying this).
Working in the industry of education can often feel like living on the horizon of a black hole. If you allow it, nearly every part of your time and energy could be consumed by the countless tasks, projects, expectations, meetings, data collection and analysis, or planning that make up each and every day. There is always things you could be doing or creating, especially if you make the mistake of going to Pinterest for an hour of sadomasochism to see what you aren’t doing to make your classroom perfect (read: obsessively neat or overwhelmingly textured and colourful).
Often, your time or energy is expended into that black hole and you don’t feel like you even had a choice in the matter.
Which is a perfect opportunity to welcome one of our featured members of this post: President Eisenhower.
Back in 1954 Eisenhower was in power during a time of global uncertainty and rebuilding. World War 2 had recently ended and, as President, Eisenhower was probably focused on some pretty key issues like running a country, maintaining a strong domestic and international economy and generally keeping the newest superpower running smoothly.
Standard sort of stuff.
During this time he was visiting Northwestern University and he gave a speech that has since gone on to get management consultants, university lecturers, TED talkers and nerd bloggers excited over the decades. This titillating proposition was first passed down to university students who were probably thinking about the next big Kegger happening on campus (Australian for “party with copious amounts of grog“) when Eisenhower delivered the rousing words:
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important.
The urgent are not important and the important are not urgent”
– President Eisenhower, 1954
Okay, I’ll be honest. This doesn’t make me applaud excitedly or jump up and down on a couch like Tom Cruise. That was, until I realised what he was actually saying to me and how it affected the way I organise myself and work demands…which has actually given me back time every day. Eisenhower was actually trying to say:
It isn’t just about what you spend your time doing, it’s about HOW you spend your time.
Since crafting this message back in ’54 things have become very visual. Some person, over some time, came up with a way to visualise this message…what time management gurus sexily call “The Eisenhower Matrix“.
Which is great, really.
However, as a visual learner and thinker I couldn’t help but upgrade this to help me actually understand it more…
To get the most out of this you need to understand what tasks fall under each section.
Like all new skills and concepts, when you start trying to do this it will take you a bit of time. Using the ideas of growth mindsets, simply put in some practise, effort and time and you will easily break tasks and projects down into any of these four sections.
Suddenly, work becomes that much clearer and freeing…which is something we all want, right?
Urgent but Not Important
This is all of those tasks, projects or distractions that seem to come up and appear really important. Upon closer inspection, they aren’t actually that important, but because there is a deadline approaching they feel important.
These could be:
- request or query from a colleague about something
- software update or upgrade
- unexpected interruptions (photocopier jams, phone call)
- other people’s minor demands
Most of these tasks could be completed by you or by others, you just need to decide if you really have the time (or ability) to do it within the deadline. If not, focus on delegating and seeking others assistance and help to complete these by the deadline.
Important but Not Urgent
This is the stuff that actually matters to you. Those long-term goals or projects that may have a deadline but it is not at your doorstop. These are the things you were brought into an organisation or company to achieve or develop. These things be your legacy and signature as a person or professional.
These could be:
- relationship building (personally and professionally)
- health and exercise
- key performance indicators or role descriptions
Simply put: this stuff really is actually important to you personally and professionally.
Not Urgent OR Important
You know this one. I know this one. This is that ol’ friend Procrastination.
- Facebook perusal of friends of friends of friends’ pet videos
- Instagram… #foodporn #nofilter #procrastinator
- Youtube spirals and black holes
- Grabbing a quick coffee before you get back to work
Okay, granted sometimes you do need to stand up and go get a coffee to switch off for a second to help you get back on track…but not after you have spent an hour and a half doing the three previous activities.
Urgent AND Important
This is the stuff that is really vital to you succeeding, making a difference or achieving something and there is a deadline approaching. Think over all of those things that really matter to you personally and professionally and place a specific time and marker onto them.
This is like being 6 weeks out from a half marathon you not only signed up for, but got friends and family to donate to (and mentioned to every woman and her dog to build up accountability). Time to get training.
These may be:
- immediate family member’s birthday
- personal or professional crises (unexpected serious development that prevents progress of any kind)
- Important things (from above) you have postponed
- Last minute changes or rework
- NBA Finals / AFL Grand Final (possibly?)
This stuff must happen, and it must happen very, very soon.
If you are able (and willing) to start prioritising things in your life you will start to see improvements and changes. Not only will you be more empowered to seek (and get) help to achieve things, but you will find that suddenly when your important things are either written down or constantly referred to, they will begin to be achieved.
You’ve just created your very own time machine to better pick and choose what you get out of your life.
Why not start seriously considering how you invest the important and urgent non-renewable resource of your time?
In the end it’s about what you want to get out of your life, right?
* Over here in Australia we are coming to the end of a long weekend as we finish commemorating ANZAC Day. It’s a national public holiday to recognise the Austalian New Zealand Army Corps who not only first fought back in 1915, but continue to serve today. So, my apologies for not getting this post out yesterday, but everything here has been shifted back a day- including my ability to send out this post.
Further Resources for Upgrading:
Eisenhower’s Quote Attribution – http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/05/09/urgent/
Eisenhower’s Biographies (possible issues with viewing access based on location)
A great video summary of Eisenhower’s thinking and productivity matrix (not a sentence you thought you would find yourself typing excitedly)