Hey, this is Joshua MacLeod, founder of Growability.
Today we’re going to talk about how to maximize your time. When I was growing up one of my very favorite TV shows was MacGyver. Now MacGyver was a guy who not only figured out how to rock a mullet successfully. He also could get out of any sticky situation with only some duct tape and a Swiss Army knife. He was a ninja of escaping from the bad guy at the last second when his life was on the line or somebody else’s life was on the line.
Now my children and I have an Amazon Prime account, and so we watch MacGyver, and we watched every episode from beginning to the end. I know, it’s bad, but I still, I love MacGyver. But one of the things that I recognized as I was watching MacGyver through not only in my childhood but now watching it now, one of the secrets to MacGyver’s success? Really stupid villains.
Every time a villain had MacGyver to where he could just shoot him or kill him, or, you know, do the job that needed to be done, that villain would set up a trap and then they’d leave. They’d walk away. Now if you’re trying to kill a superhero or you’re trying to kill the star of a TV show, don’t set up a trap and just walk away. I mean, 19 seasons of MacGyver, somebody should have figured this out.
As I watched MacGyver, I realized that most TV villains are pretty bad at time management. In fact, most superhero villains are pretty bad at time management. They have problems doing the thing that needs to be done at the time that it needs to be done. You know who else is often very bad at time management? The business owner. Today I’d like to give you a tool that has been incredibly helpful for me as I’ve made a plan for managing time effectively in my business. It’s a time matrix created by Stephen Covey.
Stephen Covey said that there are two ways that we can spend our time. We can spend our time on important things, or we can spend our time on non-important things. In addition, he said we can also spend our time on urgent things or non-urgent things. And so in this diagram you can see I have important and non-important and urgent and non-urgent.
So let’s look at these quadrants. There’s four quadrants in this diagram. In the upper left-hand quadrant you have important and urgent tasks. This is like the taxes are due tomorrow. So it’s urgent that I get them done. It’s also important that I do them because of taxes.
In the upper right quadrant we have the non-urgent and important tasks. This is something important to do, but nobody’s stressing you out to get it done. So this is the taxes are due in three months.
In the lower left-hand quadrant you have urgent and non-important. This is like somebody runs into your office and says, “Hey, you’ve got to check out this new cat video,” or perhaps it’s many emails that come into your inbox with salespeople trying to sell you something.
And then finally in the lower right-hand quadrant you have non-urgent and non-important. This is achieving level 985 on Candy Crush Saga. It’s not really urgent. You don’t have to get that level. And it’s not really important. It’s not going to help your life or your business.
Which of these quadrants do you think the majority of business owners in our world spend most of their time? If you guessed the upper left quadrant, the urgent and important, you’re right. Most business owners before they become efficient time managers spend most of their time in urgent and important tasks. You can tell an entrepreneur that’s in this mode when you say, “How are you?”, and they say, “I’m really busy.” Or, “How are you?” “Ah, I’m really stressed.” Spending time in the urgent and important quadrant is an unavoidable reality for a business owner.
There are things that are going to come out of the blue that you’re not expecting. You know, the building is on fire. There’s an electrical problem. Something blew up. You know, this employee started a fight in the office. There’s always going to be some things that are urgent and important. The danger is when the entrepreneur gets used to the adrenaline that happens in an urgent and important task. And so what they do is they delay accomplishing something that’s important until it’s the very last second. It’s absolutely urgent. It must be done. So then it’s not just putting out fires. It’s living as a firefighter. There’s continual effort put into urgent and important tasks.
What I call this quadrant, with the entrepreneurs that I work with, I call it the Path to Burn Out. No matter how effective a leader you are, no matter how much stamina you have for work, at some point, and likely it’s the end of every day, you get totally burnt out, you’re stressed out, and you just go into vegetation mode. This is one of the reasons why entrepreneurs get done with work, they sit back, they watch television for three hours. Because everything they did all day long was urgent and important.
The upper right-hand quadrant is the non-urgent and important quadrant. This is the place where people who spend the majority of their time are doing important things before they’re due. They’re doing the taxes three months before due date. I call this the Path to Awesome. Entrepreneurs who spend a lot of time, the majority of their time in the important but non-urgent quadrant, you can always tell who they are because they’re ridiculously successful. Creativity is maximized when you do something that’s important but not urgent. There’s an illusion that I can be at my best when I’m stressed and when there’s pressure on, but in fact, it’s an absolute illusion. No person creates their best work in an urgent situation. People are most clear with their thought that make the most creative decisions. They have the best ideas when they’re doing something that is not urgent but important. Like reading books and education and working on the business. Stepping out of the whirlwind of working in the business. All of those things happen in the non-urgent and important quadrant.
Okay, down in the lower left quadrant we have the non-important but urgent quadrant. What I call the lower left-hand quadrant is the Path to Mediocre. This is the social media quadrant. I’m at work, I’m trying to think about a problem, I’m trying to move through something, and bleep, I get a text. Bleep, I get a face message. I get a ping. And what we’ve done is we’ve actually trained ourselves to allow ourselves to be interrupted. Here I’m at my desk, I’m trying to do my work, and now I have interruptions. They’re urgent, they’re jumping up at me all day long, and instead of getting a lot of work done at the end of the day I allow myself to get distracted by things that are urgent but they’re not important. Instead of you as the business entrepreneur achieving the goals that you have set forth, achieving your vision mission values, you’re actually living the dream of the advertiser. Now you’re being sold and interrupted to look at somebody else’s agenda. Somebody else’s value.
And then finally you have the non-urgent and the non-important quadrant. Everybody loves this quadrant. It’s great. It’s Candy Crush Saga. It’s let me vegetate. I just want to feel, you know, good and check out. And I’ve been thinking all day and so no more thinking. The challenge with people who spend a lot of time, or even a little time in the non-urgent and non-important quadrant, basically take a good look at your life because you’re gonna be at the exact same place in 10 years from now. It is so important that instead of checking out and doing things that are non-urgent and non-important, take that non-urgent time and instead invest that into doing something that’s non-urgent and important.
So there’s a pretty good overview of the Stephen Covey Time Matrix and what will happen if you spend time in each one of those areas. But I want to do is I want to give you a little bit of a deeper dive and give some advice for what to do if you find yourself in a particular area. If you find that you spend the majority of your time doing urgent and important things, I want to give you two tools to help you escape from the burn out that is certainly coming.
The first tool is to learn to say no. Saying no is okay. Here practice this with me. No! Just because somebody asks you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. There’s a great quote that I heard, and it said, “Your lack of planning does not constitute “my sense of emergency.” If you say yes to everything, you spend your life in urgent and important and you’re gonna have burn out. Let other people deal with their own problems. Learn to say no and you’ll escape the path to burn out.
The second tool, and this is really difficult if you’re a type A entrepreneur that loves to be hands-on and do stuff is to actually let the ball drop. There are certain things that you are doing that are important, but in order to move into a better thinking arena, in order to move into a healthy organization, you’re going to have to let some good things actually drop. You’re gonna have to drop the ball on purpose This is really difficult, but if you do it you’ll create more margin in your life, more time that is spent in non-urgent and important things, and what that margin will do is create a healthier organization where you’re actually able to achieve much more than you were in the frenzy of urgent and important.
If you spend the majority of your time in the non-urgent and important quadrant, what I call the Path to Awesome, stay there. Don’t do anything else. You’ve figured out a mastery of time management that is fundamental for the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. Teach others. Show people what you do with your time management skills to help them grown organizations that are successful.
So what do you do if you find yourself in what I call the Path to Mediocre? This is the quadrant where there’s a lot of urgency, there’s a lot of urgent tasks, but they’re not really important. How do you escape that area? There are two tools that can help a person be much less distracted if you find yourself in this quadrant.
The first is to create what I call a choose to ignore list. When I go to work with a client one of the things that I choose to ignore is any social media or cell phone. When I’m working with a client I want to give them my undivided attention. Whether it’s a two-hour session or a four-hour session, they are getting all of my focus. If I spent all of that time checking my latest Twitter feed and Instagram and looking at the weather and seeing what’s happening, I’m really not going to be doing the best job that I can for that client. Well, if you’re a business owner and you’re allowing yourself to be distracted, you’re not doing the best job for yourself. Creating a choose to ignore list. Maybe it’s social media. So Twitter and Instagram and Facebook not during eight to 12. You know, at lunch I can check my Twitter feed. But before then that’s on my choose to ignore list. It may be a phone call. It may be your email. There’s a great strategy of only checking your email several times a day. So I check my email. Maybe after two hours of work I’m gonna check my email for that morning. And then at lunch I’ll check my email again. And then maybe right before I go home. If I choose to ignore my email during certain times it frees up plenty of thought time. Plenty of non-urgent and important time so that I can focus on my goals and not allow my life and my business to be driven by somebody else’s goals.
Another tool if you find yourself in this quadrant is… It’s pretty simple, actually. It’s to allow people to solve their own problems. I know, that sounds kind of harsh. But if somebody comes in with you with something that’s urgent and it might be important, the question you have to ask is is this their problem or is this my problem? Because if I’m allowing everyone else’s problems to be my problem, then what happens is… I call this a hero manager. These are people that are “I’m going to be your hero.” But what ends up happening is is that person never gets developed. Instead of that person learning how to overcome their own problems and challenges, if I solve their problems for them I’m not actually being a good leader. I’m not helping them develop as a person. Most of the time people need to learn to solve their own problems. And I’m not doing them a favor if I solve the problem for them.
The final quadrant where you may find yourself spending a lot of time is non-urgent and non-important. It’s whatever video game is on your phone. If you find yourself in this quadrant, I’ve got two suggestions, two tools. The first: Find a job that you’re passionate about. If you don’t love your work and you’re living so that you can get to the end of the day and go watch a movie or go play Candy Crush Saga, find a job that you can be passionate about and pour yourself in there. Your life will be so much better. If you need to escape from your job and you don’t enjoy your job, escape from your job! Leave it! Go do something else.
The second tool is to replace check out time with education. Spend that time that you might be watching useless YouTube videos… I’m a fan of useless YouTube videos. I’m not saying never do this, but spend that time also watching TED Talks. Now I’m being educated with my time. Spend that time reading a book or listening to an audio book. Or, you know, maybe calling a mentor and asking them to meet with you and spend some valuable time to give you some things to chew on.
The tools that I just shared have been so incredibly helpful in my own life and business. I’ve started three nonprofit organizations and a for-profit, and I have eight children. If anybody needs time management, I’m that guy. But what I’ve discovered is is if I apply the tools that I just taught you, I not only am able to excel in each of those areas, but I’m even able to have time to do videos like this to share with you. I hope that you will take these tools and this understanding of how to maximize your time and go out and grow an organization that makes a significant impact in our world.
Thank you so much for your time. Check out growability.net. Sign up for the Daily Business Question so that you can get videos like this in your email inbox. And check out the Growability workbook. It’ll save you years of frustration at your business at growability.net. Thanks for your time.