Are you struggling with defining your priorities for the day, week, month? To get back on track, you can try the Covey matrix (aka The time management matrix).
The matrix, popularised by Stephen Covey, is a practical tool for workflow optimisation. It’s also known as the Eisenhower matrix, because it is based on the same assessment criteria (importance and urgency) deployed in the so-called Eisenhower’s decision-making method.
Managing a solo business is hectic. And that often leads us to consider all urgent activities as important (and vice versa). However:
- Important activities help you achieve your business goals, regardless of their urgency.
- Urgent activities require your immediate attention, regardless of their overall importance for your business.
With the Covey matrix, the importance of urgency of each activity is assessed separately. As a result, each task falls within a single quadrant – and its position provides precious insights.
Quadrant I: Important + urgent
The emergency quadrant hosts activities you should handle as soon as possible. This includes both business-related tasks (i.e. due or overdue projects, contacts with clients) as well as unforeseen circumstances (IT problems, illness etcetera). Your keyword for quadrant 1: manage, quickly. If you don’t, consequences could he harsh.
Quadrant II: Important + not urgent
In the Covey matrix, the quality quadrant hosts all activities that contribute to your business success, but don’t require your immediate attention – such as CPD, marketing, networking, planning, and more. Your keyword here: plan. This is where all the business goodness comes from, so you need to make time or it.
Quadrant III: Not important + urgent
The third quadrant of the Covey matrix hosts distractions. These often include external stimuli (desktop & mobile notifications, emails, phone calls, …). Jumping on and off work has a negative impact on your ability to focus, so you should minimize all distractions during business hours.
Quadrante IV: Not important + not urgent
This is the quadrant of waste. Here, you can find all the activities you should avoid like the plague – random web surfing, leisure phone calls, your Instagram account … you get it.
Using the Covey matrix to assess your business-related activities helps you prioritise the tasks that matter the most. More specifically, it helps focusing on the activities of quadrant 2, which are often postponed (or forgotten) due to more pressing – but less relevant – issues.