How to manage time well – use the Eisenhower box

A few quick posts coming up in the next few days about how to manage time and Get Stuff Done. The end of the summer term is always differently busy and at the moment I’m juggling being out on training days, having trainees come in for interviews, all the mocks for those not in years 11 and 13, plus a whole host of activities across the school. Oh, and most of my normal teaching timetable and trying to do some department planning for September.

Time’s always pressured, as students or teachers. There’s planning, essays, marking, writing, reading, and everything else in our “real” lives outside the school building.

One of the absolute most useful tools I’ve ever used is the Eisenhower box. I can’t remember where I first saw it but I’m pretty sure it’s in Stephen Covey’s book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

It takes five minutes, and takes a lot of the stress out of a task list.

Step 1: Write all your tasks out in a big long listyou might already have this list – great! If not, you can either do this first or go straight to step 2:

Step 2: Make a box with Urgent / Not Urgent on the top and Important / Not Important on the left hand side.

Step 3: Fill the box. Important / Urgent tasks go in the top left box, Not Important/Not Urgent on the bottom right and so on.

Step 4: Decide what to do with them. 

This is the difficult bit sometimes. Mostly, the box to the left is correct. Do the urgent / important first BUT what then?

I’d say do important – not urgent.

If it’s in the urgent/not important then ask yourself – is it really? How many times have we done something and then realised that  the person who needed it RIGHT NOW actually hasn’t even looked at it a week later? Practise saying “no”. Practise saying “not right now.” Practise, even, leaving it in your email inbox and doing it if you get asked a second time!! Honestly, the amount of stuff nobody ever chases and so didn’t really want is just unreal Try it sometime, just for a week, and see what happens. Let me know.

Sometimes this depends on your position. If you’re a faculty leader, then Important might be where you SHOULD spend most of your time, with Urgent things being delegated so you can get on with, you know, being strategic and stuff. If you can’t quite get to it, then at least plan the important things – diary some time in the next two weeks to get it done or delegated. And not urgent not important?? Unless you’re awash with time, forget it entirely and feel good about the decision.

Step 5 – Don’t forget to review.

That thing that was important / not urgent last week might have become more urgent since then! And something that was important/non urgent might actually have lost its importance over time.

I keep a copy of a box in my diary or journal and add to it regularly, and then move tasks around, occasionally rewrite it – which also helps me feel a marvellous sense of control. Mostly because I love organised lists.

Step 6: Reward yourself for jobs well done.

It doesn’t have to be big or flash, but something nice – a biscuit, if you’re so inclined, or an hour’s reading, a trip to the cinema. Whatever it is that makes you feel that work isn’t running you or encroaching on time you don’t want to give it.

What do you think?

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