The ultimate time management strategy


Good habits vs Endless lists of priorities

(N.B. this is not lateral thinking, but a complimentary skill)

Are you spending too much time on things that are “urgent”?

“I have to do this now” … “I need that in a hurry” … “I promised the client” … “The kids have to be” … “I’m behind again” … “I don’t have time”

Instead of …

“It’s already done” … “This might be worth trying” … “Let’s think about” … “The client will appreciate this” … “The kids will benefit from” … “Let’s go!”

Believe it or not, the second scenario takes less time, effort, and stress than the first.

How? Slowly evolve your focus from “URGENT” … to “IMPORTANT”

Let me demonstrate:

  • Time spent “shaping” kids today saves an awful lot of drama later;
  • Exercise and/or a healthy diet today saves fatigue and health problems tomorrow;
  • Staff training and recruitment excellence today leads to the opportunity to delegate, higher performance, and time off tomorrow;
  • Maintenance of your home/vehicle today can save you time and greater expense in the future;
  • A quick rinse of a dinner plate before abandoning it in the sink can save a lot of difficult scrubbing later (or the next morning LOL);
  • Time spent thinking, researching, preparing, prioritizing, and planning today sees less urgent pressures tomorrow. Etc, etc.

Good time habits = fewer urgent demands on your (future) time

As impossible as it might seem at the moment, time needs to be found and dedicated to things that are “important”, but NOT “urgent”.

IMPORTANT Vs URGENT … a visualization

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.

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

Important, but not urgent – Quadrant ONE

This is where we often spend too little time, yet it is the quadrant that gives us the most potential return.

Think about things that are important, but not urgent, in your own world. Some things I typically hear include:

  • Seeing to a niggling injury or medical complaint;
  • Losing weight;
  • Revising your sales and marketing strategies;
  • Giving up smoking;
  • A noise coming from the car’s engine;
  • Sitting down with the kids during homework to assess how they are going;
  • Attention to diet and food preparation;
  • Checking on someone you haven’t heard from in a while;
  • Staff assessments and training;
  • Getting (enough) exercise;
  • Spending time with loved ones;
  • Taking time to make plans;
  • Personal work skills and training;
  • Looking for a (better) job;
  • Visiting clients;
  • Doing the rest of the lessons available on this site!

All great things, and you will eventually get around to ALL of them … yes? Hmmm. The “risk” here is that you only get around to them when they become “important AND urgent”

You try this:

  1. Draw a quadrant similar to the one above (using a white/blackboard is good);
  2. In QUADRANT ONE, write down some of the most important things in YOUR life (home and/or work) that aren’t urgent;
  3. Position the MOST IMPORTANT to the top;
  4. Position the LEAST URGENT to the left.

“Habits create trends … and a trend will always lead somewhere”

“Good time habits = positive productivity trends”

Let’s keep going.

Important and urgent – Quadrant TWO

Typically, these are the things that take top priority in your day-to-day life.

N.B. That should not change for the short term.

However, you will see activity within this quadrant diminish as you slowly take up the good habit of doing things that are important BEFORE they become urgent.

Some things people tend to list here:

  • Getting the kids to school on time;
  • Meeting sales/profit end of month targets;
  • Resolving conflict (home or work);
  • Getting to work on time;
  • Paying bills;
  • Getting your work done;
  • Meeting work/school deadlines and budgets;
  • Demands from friends and family;
  • Repairing the car;
  • Getting to the doctor;
  • Going to a funeral; and
  • Mowing the lawn.

Most (possibly all) of these tasks could be substantially moved west and away from urgent by utilizing your time in the “important, not urgent” quadrant.

For example . . . Getting the kids to school on time:

  • Sitting down with them to assess their homework/school activities means being “ready” and no last-minute scramble to do or find homework;
  • A healthy diet and exercise gives kids more energy and a better and more positive outlook. They’ll be more likely to have activities/interests making school more desirable;
  • Having a “plan” makes it easy to let them know your expectations;
  • You become a role-model of being “in control” instead of having to angrily chase them up all the time. Kids imitate. Give them something good to imitate;
  • Your work and life are so in control that you can take some time off occasionally to drive them;
  • You don’t have any “urgent” appointments to disrupt your mornings such as doctors’ appointments;
  • You visited that friend you hadn’t heard from for a while and you now don’t need to attend a funeral;
  • The quality time you’ve spent with loved ones has enabled them to see your needs and they help you without being asked.
  • And so on, and so on.

For example . . . Meeting sales/profit end of month targets:

  • An early and consistent focus of sales training would have impacted your current woes;
  • Regular reviews of your sales strategies would have kept your company’s presence in the marketplace more relevant;
  • If you’d taken the time to listen to the ideas and needs of the staff BEFORE it became a crisis;
  • If you’d had time to formulate an innovative email or electronic campaign to your loyal clients;
  • If you’d taken the time to see what your opposition were up to;
  • If you had spent more time on your marketing and branding, you would have a stronger position for your sales staff to build from;
  • If the staff felt better about their jobs, enjoyed their work more, sick days, recruitment, and training needs would be less, and would not have had the same impact on your sales;
  • If your car hadn’t broken down last week costing several hours of your day and a lost opportunity;
  • If you were a little bit fitter and healthier, and not so fatigued at work …

I think you get the general idea.

You try this:

  1. In QUADRANT TWO, write down some of the important and urgent things in YOUR life;
  2. Position the MOST IMPORTANT to the top;
  3. Position the LEAST URGENT to the left.

Let’s keep moving.

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 or it happens a little late:

  • Getting dinner ready;
  • Having a cigarette;
  • Getting to a “sale” on time;
  • Catching up on “the football game” on TV;
  • Running late for the movies or a restaurant booking;
  • Returning calls/messages promptly;
  • Running to the convenience store before it closes;
  • Covering the school books the day before school starts; etc.

You’ll see a lot of things that are typical, and repeated, in this Quadrant THREE

What happens to many (if not all) of these things after spending additional time in Quadrant ONE?

  • As a result of spending quality time “shaping the kids”, you find them to be genuinely useful in the kitchen. They understand the importance of diet/nutrition, and they have the skills to do at least some of the tasks, (if not all). The pressure is reduced as you spend less time in this quadrant;
  • Your life is running a little smoother, things are a little easier. Stress is down a fraction maybe, you’ve maybe lost a pound or two. and you have some new positive health focuses in your life. Cigarettes might be less frequent, and probably less urgent LOL;
  • Going to sales becomes less urgent as you become more organized, and a more astute purchaser. The kids (and your partner) are impacted by your good habits and are doing the same. You have a little more money and time these days to not be rushed;
  • You get the idea.

You try this:

  1. In QUADRANT THREE, write down some of the urgent, but not too important things in YOUR life;
  2. Position the LEAST IMPORTANT to the bottom;
  3. Position the MOST URGENT to the right.

We’re nearly there, let’s keep going!

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;
  • Speaking out on social media;
  • Just doing nothing;
  • Catching up on your soap opera;
  • Making yourself an unhealthy snack;
  • Relaxing, listening to music.

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 the way we imagined it though.


Time spent selfishly in Quadrant FOUR isn’t wasted time … it’s your time.

As you slowly change your emphasis from URGENT to IMPORTANT, you’ll likely find that you have more “opportunities” for your time, more “temptations” to draw you out of Quadrant FOUR into Quadrant ONE. You don’t need to do anything except understand that having your own time to do whatever you want to do is fine.

You try this:

  1. In QUADRANT FOUR, write down some of the not urgent or important things in YOUR life;
  2. Position the LEAST IMPORTANT to the bottom;
  3. Position the least pressing to the west.

And there you have it … your life is a diagram LOL

What next?

Make the change NOW!

Move slowly, or dive in, as long as you start the trend.

Pick ONE thing from your Quadrant ONE, and do it!

Keep your diagram handy, update it occasionally, or even start again with a higher enthusiasm level.

Repeat as you find yourself with more free time, reduced stress, and noticeable success.


You’ve chosen a path that will make big differences in your life

 – – – – –


Time spent on things that are IMPORTANT, but not URGENT, leads to life-changing positive outcomes.

Instead of writing lists … create good habits.


 – – – – –

Go to lesson 14

Imagination … the key to remembering

 – – – – –

Check out the concise definition: What is lateral thinking?

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.


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