Whos driving your quadrant 3?
Is it urgent? Is it important? Or is it both?
How can you manage the conflicting demands of today’s management role?
Again and again, managers are faced with the challenge of prioritising their time – it’s one of the core skills. And yet so many managers seem ill-equipped to recognise the real issues, or know how to deal with them. They are forever fire-fighting and every task seems rushed.
The problem appears to have been exacerbated by technology, which gives us the ability to respond immediately to every call, text or email, wherever we are, at any time of day – or night. And this has triggered an expectation that all enquiries, requests or queries will be met with an instantaneous response, whether it is required or not.
According to Denise Fryer, one of the Programme Directors on Henley Business School’s Developing Management Practice programme, time management is something most managers struggle with, but there are some simple strategies for reducing the pressure.
‘Often, other people will project their own sense of urgency onto us, because they feel it empowers them. But we have to learn to resist the external pressure and work in a more controlled way.
‘Naturally, there are bound to be occasions when things crop up that need our immediate attention, and we need to build time into our diary to allow for this. But most things are not urgent and important, and we perform far more effectively if we focus on one task at a time. The insights we have gained from neuroscience back this up, demonstrating that we are far less efficient when we try to multitask.
‘We use Covey’s urgent/important matrix in our programme to consider who else may be poor at planning and, consequently putting you under pressure. These “urgent but not important” tasks – the ones in quadrant 3 of the matrix – are the disruptive ones we can learn to delay or eradicate. The outcome is that you are able to be more assertive about others’ expectations and feel more in control.
‘It is possible to break the habit, and interrupting the pattern for two to three weeks is usually enough to make us see how much more effective we can be when we start to resist the external influences. We need to be in control of the technology, rather than the other way round. Better planning and adopting best practice can liberate us from the constraints and allow us to perform far better and operate with less stress.’
Details of Henley Business School’s Developing Management Practice programme can be found at www.henley.ac.uk/dmp.