Your boss, Vice President of IT, has asked you to prepare an important presentation for a critical meeting. The CEO and all US VPs will be present and you feel honored, you know the subject matter well, although you are a little surprised to be chosen.
But then your mind starts racing… you only have a few days to put the presentation together, your workload is already high, you have a number of other “urgent” tasks on your to-do list, and your parents are arriving to stay for a week tomorrow.
You feel anxious, you struggle to concentrate, you start to wonder if he is testing you? “Show me you can deliver under pressure, Jayne!” Imposter syndrome starts to creep in… “Can I do this? Not sure I can?”
Strategies for Different Quadrants of the Matrix
Activities in your IMPORTANT AND URGENT quadrant – There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: Ones that you could not foresee (ie your presentation opportunity from your VP) and others that you’ve left to the last minute. Avoid last-minute activities by planning and avoid procrastinating.
However, such issues and crises cannot always be foreseen. Therefore, leave some unscheduled time in your schedule to handle unexpected important activities. If you have a lot of urgent and important activities, identify which could have been foreseen and think about how you could schedule such activities ahead of time to prevent the “pile-up.” Prioritize your schedule with these activities first – these are the critical building blocks on your calendar. Minimize or block interruptions during those scheduled times.
NOT IMPORTANT AND URGENT – These activities are things that stop you achieving your goals and prevent you from completing your work. Do these tasks need to be done at all? If yes, can they be delayed/rescheduled or delegated? A common source of such interruptions is from other people. Sometimes it’s appropriate to say “no” politely and effectively or to encourage them to solve the problem for themselves (see blog article “Managers Use Your Strengths To Avoid the Monkey” to help you do this). Alternatively, try scheduling time when you are available (aka set open hours) and communicate that so they don’t keep interrupting you. Open hours could be a scheduled regular meeting when many needs and issues on your team can be dealt with at the same time).
IMPORTANT NOT URGENT – These activities help you achieve your goals. Make sure to have plenty of time to do these things properly, so they do not become urgent. Remember to leave enough time to deal with unforeseen problems to keep you on schedule.
NOT IMPORTANT NOT URGENT – These activities are your distraction and should be avoided. Some can simply be ignored or canceled. Others are activities other people may want you to do, but don’t contribute to your own desired outcomes. Learn to say no politely and effectively, that means explain the why. If people see you are clear about your objectives and boundaries they will not ask you to do unimportant activities in the future. Respect for you will likely go up!
3 more Churchill tips: Ask yourself:
- Am I adding important/urgent tasks to my to-do list that I could instead delegate to help my team grow?
- Am I seeing a pattern in a team member who is coming to me with urgent issues too often? If yes, coach them to manage their time more effectively.
- Can I effectively say “no” to others and still preserve the relationship? If not, Churchill can help with that too!
Our Churchill coaching team hopes this approach provides you value. If you need more Leadership and Team Development support please reach out to us. We offer a variety of leadership solutions including executive coaching services, team development solutions and leader as great coach training.
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