Weekly Training Booster Episode #8: How to Understand and Use the Urgent and Important Matrix

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Making Business Matter (MBM)
Making Business Matter (MBM)
Weekly Training Booster Episode #8: How to Understand and Use the Urgent and Important Matrix
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The Urgent and Important Matrix

Join Andy Palmer and Darren A. Smith in the eighth episode of the Weekly Training Booster. This episode was about understanding the urgent and important matrix. Also known as the Eisenhower matrix. A tool for helping you to understand how to improve your time management.

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Understand and utilise the urgent and important matrix

You Can Read the Urgent and Important Matrix Episode Transcript Below:

Andy Palmer:

Welcome to week number eight of our MBM weekly training booster. Good afternoon, for those that are watching it live, and hello to anyone else. It’s a hot Friday afternoon here for us. Today, Darren, we are going to talk about the Urgent versus Important Matrix of helping to support a time management system, sometimes called the Eisenhower model. So I’m going to ask you to give us a brief overview and then we’ll get in and explore it further.

Darren A. Smith:

Cool. This is a cracking tool, the Urgent versus Important, or Important versus Urgent Boston Matrix. So imagine a Boston Matrix. I’m going to flash one up, but I don’t think everyone will be able to see that quickly. And what it says is, there’s two axis. Urgent, and there’s another axis of important. And once you cross check those and you get your four windows, you end up with what you can do and how you can think about time management, and whether a task is urgent, or whether it’s important and how it overlaps with each other.

Andy Palmer:

That makes great sense. And I keep referring to situational base needs. Whenever I’m doing training of late, whether it’s people management, situational leadership, or whether it’s category management and talking about situational category management, adapting to the situation. And I think this is just another good example of, based on a situation that you’ve got and your situation be dictated by urgent and important allows, and that then, of course, dictates the options that you’ve got. So from what you’ve just said about those four quadrants, what sits within those four quadrants? How would you bring that to life?

Darren A. Smith:

So let’s roll through. The reasons it’s called the Eisenhower Matrix, is supposedly, President Eisenhower came up with it. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter. So you can either call U and I Matrix, or the Eisenhower Matrix, or the Urgent and Important Matrix. If we take that Matrix, and we say something is neither urgent, so we look at this axis, or important, then it’s right down here. So we’ve got a time demand or a task that’s neither urgent or important. Now this is the crazy space you get into. You say, “Well, if it’s not urgent and it’s not important, what should I do with it?” What do you think?

Andy Palmer:

What should you do with it? Well, it’s actually probably not do anything with it, but again, you don’t need it slipping through your system. So I’m going to hazard a guess that some sort of reminder, some sort of park it somewhere, put a date on it, come back to it. That type of [crosstalk 00:02:32].

Darren A. Smith:

It could be that. I mean, if it’s not urgent and it’s not important, you probably shouldn’t do it now. Now if you get some JFBI’s in your business, we all know what that acronym stands for. And sometimes, you’ve just got to get these things done. “That’s okay. The boss wants it, the customer wants it. I’ll just get it done. Fine. Not particularly urgent, it’s not important, but over the next couple of weeks.” So what we ought to do with this, is try and do as few of these as possible, because you can imagine, if you and I are operating in a space where it’s neither urgent or important, what the hell are we doing? We can’t be being productive.

Andy Palmer:

Yeah. Absolutely. All right. That makes sense. So we can either dismiss that, get rid of it. If then we were to dial up one of those axis, and let’s say, something becomes more important, what does that look like?

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah. All right. So we’ve got something that’s important, but not urgent… An example of that might be an account manager’s got a meeting with Morrisons in four weeks, big presentation. So it’s not happening right now, we’re not on a burning platform. It’s important because it’s in four weeks and there’s five squillion quid on the table available. So this, they could work through gently. You and I have a term of, “Get the hare’s running,” which is, “Maybe I’ll go get the marketing guys to get me some data,” or, “Maybe I’ll get the graphic designer to work up some graphics.” So we can get the hare’s running. We’ve got some time. It’s important, but not urgent.

Andy Palmer:

That makes sense in kind of alluding to the greyhound racing, getting something off started, as and when you then catch up with it, you’ve got those things ready that you need and to hand. Makes good sense. All right. We’ll continue round. If things then become urgent and important because time has now caught up with us and we have that important thing, what does that then look like?

Darren A. Smith:

Okay. I’ll describe what most people’s time management looks like. If you see this graphic, you’ll see that all four boxes are the same size. Now, actually, the way most people operate is, if I took those boxes and made these three really small, but the urgent and important really big, that’s when most people operate. They operate in this system, but the urgent and important box is huge. Everything’s in it, everything’s urgent, everything’s important. And they run round like a hamster on a wheel. The reason is, they’re never getting off that burning platform. So yes, they’ve got to get these things done, that isn’t going to change. The challenge is to use their discretionary time, which are all those little bits of time you have during the day, to try and get ahead, try and get the hare’s moving, try working up a box. So that not everything is fire fighting, coming up against the wackiness in place every day.

Andy Palmer:

This sounds much like it’s the reactive box. You literally have, stuff’s coming in, you’re doing it, everything’s needed yesterday, and you’re just reacting in the moment as opposed to, I guess… I like this saying. It’s, your time is managing you, as opposed to you managing your time. Does that makes sense? If people are full on up against it, what I think you were talking about, was actually, we’ve got to then move down and we should ideally try and work in the next box, our last box. So what is that last box?

Darren A. Smith:

Yeah, so that last box… Let me just make sure we go round. We’ve got the not urgent and important. So we’ve now got the unimportant, but urgent. This is a strange old box, because if you want to explore that for a moment, what’s urgent, but not important? So again, we want and try and get rid of these tasks, these time demands, as much possible because they’re almost an oxymoron. How can you have something that’s not important, but urgent? Now they do exist, but we want to make sure it’s a small part of our time management system. The challenge for all of us when we manage all these time demands, and I call it stuff management, because there’s neither work in my head or personal, it’s all up there together, is to try and work in that box that is important but not urgent. So I’m going to try and get stuff moving gently that I can see coming in the distance. And that’s how you have a less stressful life and you don’t get overwhelmed.

Andy Palmer:

Good, good. All right. So they’re our four quadrants of the Urgent and Important Matrix. I really like that last pitch about time management, which is actually more about stuff management, which goes hand-in-hand with priority management. And I think we’ve probably got maybe just another 60 seconds to go. It’s that question, the most powerful question we can ask when we’re in time management, why are you on the payroll? So that, to be able to dictate whether things are urgent and important, which you’ve got absolute genuine clarity on why you’re on the payroll, you can then use this Matrix to support yourself.

Darren A. Smith:

Absolutely can. I’m just going to add one more thing, and that is, the way that we can throw all of that out the window and just be really, really busy, is to stay in our inbox. And what we find is, people who are stuck in their inbox, don’t make the big differences because they’re doing basically whatever comes into their inbox. And all I can guarantee them, is at the end of that inbox pipe, is a lot of work. Whether it’s the right work, I don’t know, but there’ll be a lot of it. So it’s our choice to decide, “Why are we on the payroll? What are the big things that are going to make the difference?” Switch off from our inbox, and try and get more of the big stuff done and not put it off.

Andy Palmer:

Very good. All right. Excellent. Darren, thank you. For those that have got interest in this particular model and maybe a wider interest in time management, we’re going to put links in the bottom of this video for you to refer to, maybe continue that learning. But for now, that was week number eight of our weekly training booster, looking at the Urgent and Important time management Matrix. Thank you, Darren.

Darren A. Smith:

Okay. Good.

Take a look at the Urgent and Important Matrix video on our YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog.

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