Most people feel overwhelmed with a number of tasks standing in front of them each day. Instead of getting things done, often we just trying to make oneself busy getting paperwork moved or something else like this, and what is just easy and not what is right.
There is only one way to overcome this situation: we have to learn how to set priorities and do what is right, not what is easy.
The Time Management Matrix also known as four-quadrant To-Do list is very simple but highly effective tool to choose from your task list that tasks that should be your next actions. This matrix was used by Dwight Eisenhower and described in detail by Steven Covey, the author of a very popular book titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". Randy Pausch also mentioned it in his famous Time Management Talk. Personal Motivation Calendar (PMC) implements it (you can read my intro to it here) and I'll use it to show how this approach works.
The main idea is that you don't find time for important things, you make it. Each task we can assign two characteristics - importance and urgency and place them to the appropriate quadrant on the matrix. Next, you have to follow your tasks from most important to less, even if some tasks are more urgent. People easily confuse importance and urgency, but you have to remember that importance and urgency are not the same - importance always has a higher priority.
Let's take an example from PMC help. Let's imagine you have the following tasks (some of them are your wishes and plans delayed for future):
- Help a colleague with the computer
- Review news sites
- Make a presentation on the new product
- Prepare a report requested by the boss
- Learn Chinese
- Open a personal blog
- Learn the speed text typing technique
Some of these tasks are more important for you, some are less important. Some of them have to be done "for yesterday", some of them can wait.
Let's enter these tasks into PMC four-quadrant matrix in such way:
As you can see, currently most important task is to finish marketing report, next - is to prepare presentation. You have to start from these tasks and continue as shown on the picture (from 1 to 4):
In each category tasks have to be ordered from the most important ones to less important ones (from top to bottom):
As you can see, such task as help a colleague with a PC is not important to you in current situation. Of course, you can help him or her instead of getting your important things done, but will it save you from troubles not making your important work?
Also it is worth to say that tasks are not static - you can reorder tasks inside quadrants or move them between quadrants depending on current value of tasks for you.