Learning to prioritise your time and organise your workload is an essential skill to master, especially when you work for yourself. It enables you to focus on what’s important and get more done.
But it is a skill that doesn’t always come easy to many entrepreneurs! So if you’re looking to get some help with prioritising time and work, here’s how you can get started.
Why you find it challenging to prioritise your time
It’s often difficult to prioritise because you don’t understand what makes a task urgent or important. Often, other people will hand over tasks and voice how urgent they are, so you take that as a given. You then have the responsibility of handling that task and the other tasks on your list and deciding what is most urgent. And this can create confusion, overwhelm and anxiety. But urgent and important are not the same thing, and other people will also have their ideas around the difference. So the faster you understand those differences for yourself, the better.
Prioritise your time with the Eisenhower Matrix
That’s where the Eisenhower Matrix comes in handy. It’s an essential prioritisation tool – a simple decision-making matrix that helps you prioritise tasks and clarify the importance of any specific task on your to-do list. It helps you make better decisions around where your time is going, enables you to create deadlines for tasks and decide what to delegate, minimise and ditch.
Named after President Dwight D Eisenhower, the matrix uses the same principles he used to ensure you work more efficiently and effectively and only deal with tasks that you enjoy doing.
It simply categorises tasks into different categories (or quadrants) as follows:
- Q1: Urgent and important
- Q2: Not urgent and important
- Q3: Urgent and not important
- Q4: Not urgent and not important
This makes it a lot easier for you to follow the matrix and make informed decisions, so you can easily prioritise your time and workload. You simply take each task off your list, decide which quadrant to put it into, and then prioritise accordingly.
Know what’s important (and not urgent) for you
If you’re looking to prioritise your time and workload, start with getting clear on what’s important for you. This type of task isn’t usually urgent, but it is important to you – so it tends to come under Q2 on the Matrix. This is the quadrant you want most of your focus tasks to be in!
Other tasks that fall into this quadrant are typically tasks that you should focus on, which will help grow and improve your business. This includes customer and employee satisfaction, strategy and research, projects you’re working on, and product development.
Set aside dedicated time for those tasks
It’s then up to you to ensure you’re spending most of your time focusing on those tasks. Not only are you growing your business, but you’re also ensuring the work you do is based on those things you’re good at and enjoy doing.
Make changes to anticipate and reduce problems
Quadrant 1 is the urgent and important section. These types of tasks usually revolve around problem-solving and dealing with immediate issues. Tasks in this quadrant include things like dealing with angry customers or signing on new clients.
You need to spend time on these, solving the immediate issue or problem and looking at ways to anticipate and reduce them from happening again. How? By providing someone with more training or support, implementing systems, restructuring workflows, and establishing better collaboration and communication.
Know what to delegate, minimise and eliminate
Quadrant 3 is where you’ll allocate those urgent but not important tasks. This type of task includes things like paying bills and running errands, clerical work and handling general enquiries. They’re the tasks that would be removed from your task list if you managed them better.
So look at who you can delegate them out to. Can you batch them together and complete them in one time slot to save time? Can automation help? Tasks like paying bills, for example, can be set up as automatic payments, whilst tools like Zapier can help create spreadsheets or transfer data from one tool to another.
Take a good look at what’s not urgent and not important
And that brings us onto quadrant 4 – tasks that aren’t urgent or important. If you have tasks written down in this quadrant, you need to decide if it’s something that a) needs doing or b) can be delegated out. Bottom line they shouldn’t be on your task list at all. This includes posting social media pictures, updating website graphics and DM chatting with colleagues.
Learning how to prioritise your time and workload isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. But with tools like the Eisenhower Matrix, you’ll find it a lot easier to accomplish. You can follow the simple matrix to make better decisions and establish what tasks you should have on your to-do list and where your time and focus need to be.
And if you’ve established that there are tasks you need to get off your plate and outsourced, why not get in touch? We help ambitious business owners free up their time, so they can spend it on the things that matter to them. So if you’re looking for business support and someone to hand over tasks to, reach out and let’s discuss options – you’ll find our contact details here.