Do you find it hard deciding where to direct your time and energy each day?
Maybe when you look at everything on your runway, GTD lingo for all of your discrete tasks(emails, phone calls, next actions on your projects, etc.) you get overwhelmed or confused trying to decide what to do.
So, you may do what feels the most urgent or interesting. But not necessarily what is most important.
The Urgent – Important Matrix is a framework that can help you answer two questions:
- Is this important?
- Is this urgent?
And decide what to do each day.
Important and Urgent – Quadrant 1
One way the matrix can help is to see if you are simply putting too much on your plate. If you have too many tasks in Quadrant 1, it may mean you are just putting out fires.
What if everything feels important and urgent? A common feeling for many adults with ADHD. If this is true for you, you may look at your long list of to dos and think, “It all has to get done today!” This thought may lead you to alternate between panicking and shutting down.
Because you can’t do it all…
If you just can’t do everything that you say is important and urgent, one possibility to consider is that you are trying to do too much. And it may be time to consider whether you need delegate, defer or even drop some of your activities.
If the overload is generated by your own initiatives, you may have an easier time doing this.
If the demands of others (management, spouse, kids, etc) are leading to your overload, it may be time to have a conversation with the people making the demands about what is possible and where you need help.
While you will always have urgent tasks, you can spend less time in Quadrant 1 by spending more in time on Quadrant 2 activities.
Important and Not Urgent – Quadrant 2
Activities that fall in this quadrant are those that will lead you incrementally toward your vision and goals.
And, as you probably know all too well, many of these activities are ones that can become urgent and eventually fall in Quadrant 1 when you continue to put them off.
So, how do you do these tasks when there is no urgency?!
Here a few workarounds if you struggle doing the important but not urgent stuff in your life.
- One possibility for this struggle is that you have not yet clearly indentified your goals, vision and areas of focus. So, while you may end up doing whatever work comes your way, you are not necessarily doing what is important to you. The first step is to get clear on where you are going, so you can create some urgency and interest.
- Alternatively, you can identify what is important. But without a sense of urgency you may struggle to initiate and follow through on your important stuff. If this is where you struggle, the key for you is to learn strategies and get support to build your ability to initiate.
- As is true for many with ADHD, it may be that being able to visualize the future consequences of your daily actions is a challenge. And, because you can’t see in the moment how doing something that is not urgent will help you, you may not trust that the time spent here will be worth it, especially when you have so many urgent tasks.
It is a bit of a catch 22, though. Because you will likely need to experience how an activity like reviewing and planning on a regular basis helps you move forward before you will feel like doing it. You can use some of the initiation strategies to help you even when your mojo just isn’t there.
What are other techniques you use to do the important and not urgent tasks on your list?
Not Important and Urgent – Quadrant 3
Many of the activities in this quadrant are interruptions by others, and it is easy to get caught up in these if you are in a reactive mode. But when you spend too much time here you can feel like you haven’t gotten much done.
A key to spending less time in this quadrant is to be clear on your important tasks each day. One way to do this is to pick the top 3 or so tasks you are going to do each day.
The second key is to be aware of the types of external and internal interruptions you encounter, and have strategies in place to deal with them.
Here some options:
- Block out specific time each day to do your important tasks so you don’t default to the pull of others’ interruptions.
- Be willing to say no to interruptions. “Really want to talk to you. But I’m trying to get this report out the door. I can talk at 2:00…”
- Have a system for processing and responding to your emails so you are not drawn to it each time one pops up. And turn off your email so it does not pop up.
- Let calls go to vm when you can.
- Write down your random thoughts in a safe place, rather than tending to them in the moment.
- If possible, close your door for a bit each day so you can focus on your work.
What are your best practices for dealing with various kinds of interruptions?
Not important and Not Urgent – Quadrant 4
Oh, look there goes the fly! Sure, that is funny sometimes… Unless the “flies” are getting in the way of you doing what is important to you.
The key to minimizing the time you spend on these activities is to be aware of where you usually “go off the rails,” and have strategies in place to address them. So, you may…
- block certain sites during your work hours, using an app like RescueTime.
- find a location to work where there are fewer distractions.
- turn off instant messaging on your computer.
- put your phone away so you don’t see the text messages coming in.
- use the Pomodoro method to create a sense of urgency.
What are ways that you typically procrastinate? What can you do to manage these?
Question For You
Where are you spending your time?
Try keeping an activity log each day for a week so you can see where you might need strategies and support to do more of your important stuff each day.