Last week we reviewed some popular time management tips and tricks. They are great guidelines. I use them myself and genuinely recommend them. And yet, to be brutally honest, as a brilliance-based entrepreneur, I’ve found they are simply not enough! So this week I am attempting to describe a way to take time management to the next level.
In his classic 1989 book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey guided readers to prioritize by assessing tasks according to their levels of urgency and importance. He drew this two-by-two matrix:
Covey recommended staying out of the bottom row, the ‘not important’ tasks. Easy-peasy. Instead, he said, spend most of your time in the top row, on the ‘important’ tasks. The most successful people he came across spent the most time on the ‘important but not urgent’ tasks in “The Zone,” the top right quadrant. They focused their attention on the long term, effectively building relationships and cultivating opportunities.
In today’s even faster-paced world, many hard-working, rapidly prioritizing entrepreneurs don’t get anywhere near The Zone. We drown in The Quadrant of Demand, those tasks that are both urgent and important. I don’t know about you, but I’ve often felt it’s impossible to escape them.
Earlier in my career I assumed I’d always finish everything in my work and personal life that I rated both urgent and important. But at this point in my life, as a single mom and entrepreneur, I literally can’t. That’s right: I can’t. I’ve had to accept it. (Haven’t yet come to the point where I’m proud of it. I’m starting with just admitting it).
So, how do I choose which of the urgent-and-important tasks to do, and which to drop? Covey took me this far but doesn’t get me to where I need to go in this 21st century super-digitized life I lead. I’m no good at rotating three-dimensional objects in my head (just ask Johnson O’Connor) but I can tell we need to add a third dimension to his matrix.
That third dimension, that bonus decision-making criteria (drum roll, please) is brilliance-based. In other words, as we stare at our metaphorical pile of assignments we’ve declared both urgent and important to us, we must ask ourselves “Is accomplishing this activity linked directly to MY brilliance?” Or, “could only a person with my background, passion, abilities, relationships and priorities do this very thing?” If we answer “no” – here comes the radical part — it might not get done at all. Ever. Even if it seems urgent and important. And – here comes more radicalness – if it is truly necessary in the world, someone else is meant to do it. Rather than try to do everything by ourselves, let’s let them.
I call this decision-making step the Process of Illumination. The more we each appreciate our own and each other’s brightness, the more essential-seeming activities we can eliminate from our individual plates. With less on our plates, we free our energy so we can truly concentrate on what’s in The Zone for us. I invite you to participate in this simple decision-making process and hope it will decrease your sense of overwhelm.
(Next step then, if you’re not already there, is to charge handsomely for your brilliance. This is a critical step to enable us brilliance-based entrepreneurs to afford team members (part-time or full-time, virtual or on-site) to whom we can delegate. For those of us who provide services and/or create products, especially women, it can be tempting to think what we do is easy for us and therefore not so valuable. When a friend or colleague asks you to do a favor by providing your creativity for free or at a deep discount, think very carefully before agreeing. What are the opportunity costs? How will this opportunity to lower your rates affect you, your business, and your loved ones? You have only 168 hours per week. Is it truly worthwhile?)
I’ll be writing and speaking a lot more in the coming year on how to lead your brilliance-based business and life with joy and ease. If you know of a person, organization, association or event that could really benefit from this topic, please email and let us know.
How do you deal with urgent demands while working on your important projects? How do you stay focused on your most important tasks? What do you see as your brilliance? Do you feel comfortable charging top dollar for it? In the comment area below, please share your secrets (it’s just us online chickens here anyway). Thanks!