Personal Growth

Increase productivity at work using this time management hack

Have you ever wondered what is the biggest ever mistake that most people make when taking their business online?
Gaurav Achpalea

What is Table of Odds? 
Table of Odds is a series where I present easy to implement practical ideas, concepts and resources that I  find essential to personal growth.  It is my humble attempt to stir up conversations and start a dialogue about enriching our daily lives by energising it with elements like efficiency, effectiveness and explication.

The massive shift to ‘work from home’ culture has brought up challenges many never previously faced while working in office environments. This new set of challenges include finding answers to questions like:

  • How to increase productivity at work, when working from home?
  • What to give priority to?
  • How to not get easily distracted?
  • How to manage time in a better way?

So many of us also feel overwhelmed thinking about tasks we never had to think of while in office. Because everyone is present at home more than before, there’s a lot more to do in terms of keeping the place in good shape. The only thing that has not changed is the fact that a day still has only 24 hours in it. However, a lot more work has been cramped into it while the only major subtraction seems to be travelling to and from the office. 

Of course, there are other benefits like office politics has been thrown out of the window for the most part. So people are actually working instead of keeping their focus on other’s accomplishments and conspiring ways to bring the high achievers down. So, surely the absence of office politics does help as that’s one less thing to think about throughout the limited time you have dedicated to work for the day.

Keeping all the fluff away, let’s start digging into what we can do to increase productivity at work? Have you ever heard of the Eisenhower Matrix? If not, have you come across an adaptation of it – Covey’s Time Management Matrix?

If your answer was yes, you are already one step ahead than others who remain unaware of these concepts.

For the uninitiated, let me first give you a quick brief about the Eisenhower matrix. Or perhaps, a better starting point would be first knowing a bit about the person who devised this matrix and understanding why he would come up with something like this to boost his productivity.

The 34th President of the United States who occupied the office from 1953 until 1961 was none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower. This was only after he first served as a general in the United States Army and as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II only to become NATO’s first supreme commander. 

So you see, thanks to the offices he held, Eisenhower was a person who continually had to decide what task(s) should he give his attention to.

It was in his speech addressed to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1954 that Eisenhower quoted Dr J. Roscoe Miller, who was at the time president of Northwestern University. 

The quote he shared said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” 

The keyword in that quotation for me is ‘problems’. If what was urgent was also important and what was not urgent was not important, it would not have been considered as a time management problem waiting to be solved. The problem only creeps in when we spend our time doing things that seem urgent but are not important. And worse, doing things that are neither urgent nor important.

This shared dilemma that many are often faced by… finally led Eisenhower to invent his renowned Eisenhower principle.

A matrix which till date helps many top-performing individuals manage their time efficiently by sorting their to-do list based on the urgency and importance of the pending tasks. 

So here’s how the matrix looks…

The Eisenhower urgency-importance matrix is a quick and easy way to reduce stress and increase productivity by helping to appropriately prioritise tasks. It has hence become a rage of sorts amongst many time management enthusiasts.

If just looking at the matrix did not make it clear for you, here’s a detailed explanation of how it works…

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important – Do

These are tasks that should top your priority list. I would like to call this ‘quadrant of obligation’.

The tasks that require your undivided attention right now. Others may not be able to accomplish these tasks better than you, so delegation is not a possibility. Also, because these are important tasks they need to be accomplished before it is too late to accomplish them.

Quadrant 2: Not urgent but important – Schedule

These are the tasks you plan for. I would like to call this ‘quadrant of calibre’.

The important tasks that can wait. The ones not pressing enough to grab your immediate attention, but important enough not to be ignored or delegated. So it is always a good idea to give your complete attention to these tasks after you are through with the tasks that you listed under quadrant one.

Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important – Delegate

These tasks are mostly the ones that many get hoodwinked by. I would like to call this ‘quadrant of deceit’.

The tasks that can easily be done by someone else with equal efficiency if not more. They are however urgent. So a better idea is to try and delegate such tasks to someone else who seems capable to get it done. For example, you’ve run out of kitchen supplies and if you don’t get them in time there won’t be dinner served in your home tonight. So you can delegate this task to a house help or probably even your 16-year-old child; if you happen to have one.

Quadrant 4: Neither urgent nor important – Eliminate

This is the one quadrant that clearly describes the tasks that you should avoid keeping in your to-do list. I would like to call this ‘quadrant of trifles’.

It would not make a lot of difference if you choose not to pay any attention at all to these tasks. The problem arises when people create a delusion for themselves that ends up placing tasks that should end up here, in the quadrant one.

While many may consider this logical approach to come naturally, it is fascinating to see so many people function more or less on the contrary. It could either be because they suppress their natural instincts and rather choose to go with their pleasure driving instincts. Or it may as well be that considering this logical approach to come naturally is nothing else but a fallacy. Maybe it is, like any other habit, developed with constant mindfulness and practise. 

What do you think? How often do you see yourself using this time management hack increase productivity at work?

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