This simple habit, I promise you, is life changing.

Does your time seem increasingly spent on things that are “urgent”? You “have to” do this, you “need to” do that, and “I promised the client this”, and “the kids are behind with that”, “your budget at work is behind again” etc, etc etc.

Wouldn’t it be better to be saying “I want to do this”, “I’m already thinking/working on next month’s budget”,  “I’m going to try something new”, “the client will appreciate this” and “the kids will benefit from this”?

Time spent on “urgent” matters creates downward pressure on the return on your time.

Time spent on “important” matters creates upward pressure on the return on your time.

(Return is not necessarily financial, it is up to you to decide what is important and how you measure your return on time.)

The habit of focusing on what is “important” will eventually lead to less “urgent” demands on your time. For example:

  • Quality time spent shaping kids today saves an awful lot of drama later;
  • A routine of regular exercise today saves fatigue and health problems tomorrow;
  • A greater focus on staff training and recruitment today leads to the opportunity to delegate, higher performance and opportunity to take time off tomorrow;
  • Maintenance of your vehicle today can save you from breaking down in the future;
  • Time spent prioritizing and planning today sees less urgent pressures tomorrow. Etc, etc.

This same truth applies to clients, siblings, writing books, finances, projects, boats, gardens, mothers, friends, house, romance etc, etc.

As impossible as it might seem at the moment, time needs to be found and dedicated to things that are “important”, but NOT “urgent”. As you constantly force yourself into focusing on an ever-increasing amount of “important but NOT “urgent” activities, you’ll find your fortunes will rise, your work stress levels will drop, your problems will reduce, your life will be happier, you’ll be a magnet of same outcomes for those around you. You will have less and less “urgent” considerations to draw you away from what is important.

This is true of home and work.

Some business owners work long hard hours, always attending to “urgent” matters. Have you ever noticed that they aren’t like that anymore? They’re either dead, broke, or both. Time must be found for important considerations BEFORE the become urgent.,

Think about stuff that can take a back seat for a while, even a short while, where the time can be dedicated to something else. I’m talking about taking time from things that are “not urgent, and not important”, and moving that time into the “important and not urgent” area. For example . . .

Say you gave up watching 2 hours of TV per week for 3 months and spent that time instead helping the kids get exercise and also getting on top of their school work, what would happen?

  • You and the kids will be that little bit healthier and fitter, meaning that future downtime from illness and fatigue will be less likely;
  • The kids will be that little bit more on top of their school work, making them happier and easier to manage;
  • You will have a stronger relationship with the kids, thereby thwarting future issues that might need “urgent” attention;
  • Your medical expenses in the future would be less;
  • You would have more energy in your day and you could get more done.

At the end of three months, you go back to your TV, and you realize that you CAN watch your programs (guilt-free) because the kids and you have LESS urgent needs. You easily find the time to be with the kids, and because you’re seeing huge rewards from that time, it becomes enjoyable and replaces other less enjoyable activities. So, more time for enjoyment NOT less.

Think of this graph below as representing all the things you can do with your time.

The more IMPORTANT an activity, the further NORTH.

The more URGENT an activity, the further EAST.

Time creativity
(N.B. “Important” is a subjective assessment that will differ from person to person)

Important, but not urgent – Quadrant ONE

This is where we tend to spend the least amount of time, yet it is the quadrant that gives us the most potential return on our time.

Activities you may include here are things like:

  • Planning for the future;
  • Getting healthy;
  • Passing knowledge to your children;
  • Training staff;
  • Taking the family for a quality holiday;
  • Renovating your home; and
  • Visiting loved ones.

Important and urgent – Quadrant TWO

Typically, these are the things that you claim to take up a lot of your time. However, it is likely that if you had the foresight to spend time in the “important and not urgent” quadrant, your demands would be considerably less.

Examples are things like:

  • Getting to work/school on time;
  • Paying bills;
  • Meeting work/school deadlines and budgets;
  • Demands from friends and family;
  • Repairing the car; and
  • Mowing the lawn.

Most of these tasks could easily be moved away from urgent by utilizing your time in “important, not urgent”.

Urgent, but not important – Quadrant THREE

These are the tasks that aren’t hugely important because it isn’t the end of the world if you do nothing.

  • Running late for the movies or a restaurant booking;
  • Covering the school books the day before school starts;
  • Catching up on “the game”;
  • Returning calls;
  • Running to the convenience store for something you ran out of;
  • Having a cigarette etc.

Because many are things that you want, you will easily allow your time to be consumed here

Not important, not urgent – Quadrant FOUR

Every single person on Earth spends time in the “not urgent, and not important” quadrant. Things like:

  • Sleeping in on a weekend;
  • Just doing nothing;
  • Catching up on your soap opera;
  • Making yourself an unhealthy snack;
  • Relaxing, listening to the radio.

We call it “down time” or “relaxation” or “my time” or whatever, and we will tell you that we don’t have enough of it now, so maybe later when we get on top of things we’ll get around to it.

It rarely happens.

Habit is habit.


Everybody needs time in the “not urgent and not important” quadrant. You probably deserve more time than you currently spend there. But, as life moves on, are you “trending” to less?

Even a very small change in how you spend your time today will return you more time tomorrow. It will also give you a higher return on your time as well.

Several months ago, I personally decided to try to reduce the time I lose on medical procedures (I have not been well for a couple of years now). I bought myself an exercise treadmill, and although I consider myself to be “reasonably” within an acceptable weight range, my weight has gone up a little with the medical procedures so I decided to start a diet before it became urgent. I started the exercise routine at a point where I believe that my fitness was already well above what would be considered typical for my age.

Exercise and diet, whilst very important, was NOT urgent at this point in time.

The time spent on the treadmill had to come from somewhere. I decided to sacrifice some of the time I spend just relaxing, and also some of the time I spend writing my novel (and building the promotional websites like this one) each day. I committed myself to two hours on the treadmill per day. I also spent an additional 30 minutes per day with my food preparations, planning, and research.

The outcome after 6 months?

  1. I am enjoying the level of health and fitness so much that I now find myself having to put limits on the associated activities;
  2. My energy levels are through the roof. I have substantially increased my work rate and quality. I am months ahead of my projections for my writing and web building projects;
  3. The home renovation is now powering ahead;
  4. I am extending my lifespan according to my doctor. He says my rather serious medical problem is substantially benefitting from my improved health. He actually said my turnaround is “amazing”;
  5. I’m happier knowing I’m achieving so much;
  6. My flatmate sees this change within me and is actually now spending 20 minutes a day on the treadmill also. Small steps but she is turning a corner also;
  7. Some of my friends, inspired by my success, are also undertaking the same journey; and
  8. My confidence and better attitude have landed me new friends, a new relationship, publishing interest in my book, and I can see improvement in the lives of those around me that I care for.

My point is, I was getting swamped by urgent demands, getting pissed off with people not matching their words and pushing me further into “urgent” territory, making poor progress on my renovation, letting my health take a back seat, feeling depressed, and I was spiraling downwards. I made a decision to find time for things “not urgent but very important”.

The most effective time management I can teach is that which brings about good habits. If you can simply recognize when you are spending time on things that are “urgent”, and then also making an effort to always spend a small amount of time to do things that “important” and not “urgent”, you will see that your emphasis over time will slowly shift from “urgent” to “important”, and you will be the master of your time.


That’s it for today. Don’t forget, we are trying to establish neural pathways of habit. The way to do this successfully is to use and practice the methods you have learned. You should share what you have learned with others, especially with people you care about.


A quick review of what you have learned so far . . .

Three things you now understand about the creative process are:

  1. Creative thinking is merely the combining of two or more ideas that haven’t been combined/considered before;
  2. Our education and life experiences can often lead to a “blinkered” viewpoint; and
  3. Never be afraid to defy the experts. Experts are often reduced to being cogs stuck in the machinery of their own expertise.

Creative thinking/lateral thinking and management skills that you can now use are:

  1. Random starting points;
  2. Considering the viewpoints/perspectives of others;
  3. Challenging the status quo by asking “why?”
  4. Look off the path of dominant thinking;
  5. Backwards planning for achieving goals;
  6. Setting goals of passion;
  7. Creative speaking;
  8. Creative combinations;
  9. The four-step problem-solving technique; and
  10. Time management.

Lateral Thinking Lesson 13 – Summary

Try to create the habit of spending time on things that are important but not (yet) urgent. The return on your time icrease, as the demands on your time decrease.


That’s it for today. Think of something really important that you’ve been putting off because it isn’t urgent. Find the time to do it. Let me know how you go.

See you tomorrow.

Preparation for Lesson 14

Creative memory technique

Yesterday, I asked that you firmly entrench numbered rhymes 1 – 5 into your memory. Have you done so? it is very important that you do so. Next, we are going to put permanent imagery to be associated with each numbered rhyme from 6 – 10.

In each case, you should close your eyes and imagine what I describe including your own detail and improvisation.

One – run.

You are at the Olympics sitting at the stadium. You are sitting at the back. Below you, you can see the oval that the athletes are about to race around on a 400-meter sprint. You hear the starter’s pistol go off “bang!” The crowd around the stadium begins cheering and standing with the excitement. You are forced to stand to see the action, but when you get to look down from your position at the back over the top of the cheering crowd, instead of athletes running around the track, all you see is “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Two – zoo.

You’re at a huge but very old zoo. As you reach the monkey cage, there is a hole in the wall with bars to let you see the action. Inside the monkey caged area is a huge tree with no leaves on it for the monkeys to play on. There are lot’s of people at the zoo, so many that you can’t see the monkeys because so many people are standing in front of you. Gradually, you move closer to the front. The tree is now in plain view, but instead of monkeys hanging from the tree, you see “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Three – tree.

There is a huge Christmas tree in front of City Hall, and you’ve made a special trip into the heart of town to see it. The decorations each year just get better and better. This year, you turn up and you’re not disappointed, the tree is glorious in color and imagination. As you look at the top of the tree, you are completely surprised. Instead of the “Star of David”, you see “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Four – door.

Do you remember the front door to a memorable childhood home? Do you remember the sanctuary it afforded? Can you remember the joy of being greeted by a parent or guardian? Imagine that you are that child living in that home once more. You arrive home, open the door, but to your complete surprise, instead of who might normally greet you, instead there sits “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Five – hive.

Imagine walking along a bush track. You can imagine being alone or with a friend, and you can be any age you choose. This bush track has a lot of plants growing into the path, so you are using a long stick/branch you’ve found to help push them out of your way as you progress. Suddenly, you come across a beehive. You hit the beehive with the stick and it falls to the ground, breaking open. You are about to run for your life as you expect a swarm of angry bees, but instead, the only thing inside the beehive is “the object”.

Six – sick.

You are a child (again) home from school with a tummy ache. The doctor is visiting you at your home, in your bedroom. The doctor asks where it hurts and you point to your stomach. The doctor then pulls up your shirt and shows you what the problem is. You look and you see “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Seven – Heaven.

You’ve died and gone to heaven. There waiting for you as you climb the stairs to the pearly white gates is Saint Peter. But instead of holding a harp, Saint Peter is holding “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Eight – gate.

You are at a level crossing and a train is approaching from the right. Before you can get across, the boom gates come down to stop your progress. To your complete surprise, at the end of the boom gate is “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Nine – wine.

You are out to go out to dinner. It is a very high-class establishment. The wine you have chosen has arrived, and the waiter asks if you would like to confirm that he has brought you the right selection. You turn to look at the wine the waiter is presenting, but instead, he presents “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Ten – den.

You are on safari in Africa. You are hunting lions. Up ahead is a cave, and a lion’s enormous roar comes from within. Cautiously, you enter the lion’s den expecting to see a charging angry lion at any moment. There is is no lion, however, instead, you see “the object”.

Close your eyes and visualize this now.

Tomorrow we’ll be having a fun day learning how to use the imagination as an infallible filing system for your memory.

Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

2 thoughts on “Lesson 13 – Time Management

  1. Actually this is my favourite lesson. It’s made such an immediate impact in my life, let alone what the long term outcomes will be!

    I didn’t realise how many Important Urgent I had around me until I did a quick 10 minute stock take. Way too many. What is really great though is identifying the Important Not Urgent, and seeing the balance change daily towards those.

    It’s working well for my 14 year old son now too. I’ve had endless talks with him about homework and assessments and time management, preparing for assessments early, prior preparation …..blah blah blah….which were met with glazed eyes.

    Strangely enough the terminology from this lesson, he just seems to ‘get’. So when we’re doing our daily homework ‘check-in’ he has started to allocate time for “Important not Urgent”, so he can get to “Not Important, Not Urgent” i.e. xBox.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s