Placing your activities into 4 specific quadrants

In ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ author Stephen Covey suggested these four quadrants when considering how best to use your time. I believe that this is a practical way to assess and best manage how you spend each day.

So, here’s a useful exercise: list all of your tasks, and time taken, over a fixed period – say a week. Having done so, then place each into only one of these four headings: “important and urgent”, “important but not urgent”, “urgent but not important” and “not important or urgent”.

Having accomplished this, add up the time spent for tasks in each area. You now have a clear picture of how your time has been used – or misused. Let’s look at each in more detail:

Not important or urgent

So, why are you undertaking these trivial tasks? Often, the answer can simply be habit, or ‘it’s always been done this way’. Sometimes, these are ‘comfort’ tasks, allowing the person to feel they are working, and neglecting the fact that time is simply being wasted in non-productive ways! Aim to stop doing these things!

Urgent but not important

Often the urgency comes from others’ needs, or last-minute tasks being delegated to you. Do remember that these tasks might be important to your organisation generally, if not to you personally. If these tasks must be accomplished, the key is to schedule them effectively, and thus counter the interruptions caused by urgency.

Important but not urgent

Tasks here tend to focus on the strategies and value of your work. As mentioned, the key is to schedule such tasks effectively. You know how much time should be allocated, which may be different to the amount you currently spend. Appreciating this, aim to find an appropriate time to undertake the work.

Important and urgent

As you schedule your day, these areas should be given priority. Apart from managing pressing problems, or the inevitable crises, the tasks listed here should also be about taking positive action to grow the business, make improvements; be about working wisely and efficiently today while looking to the future.

I know that the above is a simplistic guide to the use of these four time management quadrants – as shown on the image. However, the depth comes when you undertake the exercise and begin to build a deeper understanding of where you currently spend your time, and how this could be more effectively focused.

A Bad Day Counts

Sometimes, it’s possible to be proud when things don’t go quite right.

Wearing the green and gold and representing Australia (as the sport of triathlon made its Paralympic debut) is something I have dreamed of for a long time. And the thing about dreams, is you’ve already seen how they’re going to play out.

Or, how you were expecting them to play out.

Success is sweet. Everyone knows that.

But it’s when things are a little tougher that you really learn the most valuable lessons about your sport, and about yourself.

It’s already been a few weeks since race, and there’s a lot of things that continue to run through my mind. The most prominent being a message someone told me when I first got into the sport: “What matters is not where you place, but how you race.”

On the day – I had a strong swim and was leading out of T1.

On the bike, my power output evaporated. Something wasn’t right with the adductor in my good leg.

As the struggle set in, my mind was hurting. I wanted to give so much more than I had for my country.

As the bike portion of the race wound down, and my leg was flailing, I began to wonder if the upcoming 5km run would actually be a 5km walk.

But giving up was simply not an option.

I still crossed the finish line. And managed to do it while jogging, despite being in a lot of discomfort.

Yes – initially I was disappointed, and was left scratching my head trying to work out why this day had to be a bad one for my triathlon career.

I spent a lot of time asking myself questions and not getting many answers.

The only thing I could come up with initially was, it just wasn’t my day.

But it can always be your day to learn.

To make a bad day count.

I can now say we have been able to discover what went awry for me on the day.

And I am excited that I can do something about it. I can make a bad day count.

I managed to pass on my congratulations in person, but I have to say it publicly as well – Andy J Lewis, is undisputedly the hardest working and fully deserving first Paratriathlon PT2 male gold medallist in history.

The day after my race, I also made sure I was ringside to cheer on the Aussie female triathletes. “We’ve been together for a few years now,” I said as a spectator on the official summary video, “seeing each other through the highs and lows.”

I had just been through one of those ‘lows’.

But seeing my team mates do so well ended my Paralympic racing experience on a ‘high’.