According to Acuity training, a staggering 82% of people do not have a time management system in place. Systems and processes, in any form of business are a huge key to success.
The reason I think a lot of people struggle to keep on top of tasks is they use a linear to-do list. This is a recipe for disaster as human nature means you do the tasks you enjoy first as opposed to the ones which are higher priority.
For example, if you are a spreadsheet kind-of-person, you will spend your time and energy on reporting, rather than potentially having one-to-one coaching sessions with your team. If you are a more relationship-based person, personal interactions will be at the top of the cue and the pesky reporting always gets left to last.
In 1954 Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Eisenhower Matrix to help people prioritise tasks, he breaks them into:
- Important/Urgent quadrant tasks are done immediately and personally, e.g. crises, deadlines, problems.
- Important/Not Urgent quadrant tasks get an end date and are done personally,e.g. relationships, planning, recreation.
- Unimportant/Urgent quadrant tasks are delegated, e.g. interruptions, meetings, activities.
- Unimportant/Not Urgent quadrant tasks are dropped, e.g. time wasters, pleasant activities, trivia
Now while this is a long-established system that when used correctly has been proven to work, the uptake on it appears to be low as according to a study by Ginux, the average worker spends 51% of their day on low to no-value tasks.
In 1989, Stephen Covey, revisited Eisenhower’s theory in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, where he takes the quadrants and visualises them into rocks in a jar. In the famous video, he explains that only when you put the rocks, pebbles, and sand in the jar in the correct order, can you fit everything in.
2018 saw James Clear cover the same principles in his New York Times best-selling book ‘Atomic Habits’. With so much coverage on this topic, it is shocking to believe that only 18% of people have a time management system in place.
Or is it? Whilst this theory is great for managing your own time, it begins to get complicated when others are involved in completing your task. This is because chances are, your priorities are misaligned and the importance of the task was not communicated properly.
In my book ‘SMASH IT! The Art of Getting What YOU Want’, I split the content into two sections. ‘The ME thing’ and ‘The WE Thing’, to help people achieve their goals. The Eisenhower Quadrant is a perfect solution for solo tasks, but what about when you are communicating with other people?
I translate Eisenhower’s work into Alison Edgar’s Big Balls® which consists of Basketballs, Tennis Balls, and Ping Pong balls as the priority order. Basketballs are notoriously hard to juggle so you can only do one or two at at time, and if you have ever had one in the face, you will know how sore it is, and of course like life, if you are juggling too much, you drop the ball, which often happens when you don’t do things in the right order.
I work with some of the world’s best-known brands to help them improve communication, break down silos and ultimately create a high-performing culture.
One of the most common causes of siloing and colleague relationship breakdowns is a lack of trust. In a lot of cases, the trust has been broken because someone in the organisation has not done something when asked or in the timeframe required.
Let’s take the report for your boss which needs to be done by 5 pm on a Thursday. That is their basketball, they need to get their figures to their senior leadership team so they have projections for the next quarter.
But usually, someone in the team used the overused excuse “too busy” to get it done on time. They are treating the manager’s basketball as a ping pong ball, and it’s the disparity of the balls that leads to the breakdown in communication and when it happens repeatedly the trust eradicates and it’s this which affects the overall performance.
Talking in Alison Edgar’s Big Balls® ensures transparent communication and improved productivity, leaving you with the ultimate high-performing team.