Time management strategies are often associated with the recommendation to set personal goals.
The literature about time management stresses themes such as:
- “Work in Priority Order” – set goals and prioritize,
- “Set gravitational goals” – that attract actions automatically.
These goals are recorded and may be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For individual tasks or for goals, an importance rating may be established, deadlines may be set, and priorities assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list, schedule, or calendar of activities.
Authors may recommend a daily, weekly, monthly, or other planning periods, associated with different scope of planning or review. This is done in various ways, as follows: ABCD analysis, Pareto analysis, The Eisenhower Method, and POSEC method.
ABCD analysis’s Time Management
A technique that has been used in business management for a long time is the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, C and D—hence the name. Activities are ranked by these general criteria:
- A – Tasks that are perceived as being urgent and important,
- B – Tasks that are important but not urgent,
- C – Tasks that are unimportant but urgent,
- D – Tasks that are unimportant and not urgent.
Each group is then rank-ordered by priority. To further refine the prioritization, some individuals choose to then force-rank all “B” items as either “A” or “C”. ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups.
ABC analysis is frequently combined with Pareto analysis.
The Pareto principle is the idea that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. Applied to productivity, it means that 80% of results can be achieved by doing 20% of tasks. If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher.
The Eisenhower Method
A basic “Eisenhower box” to help evaluate urgency and importance. Items may be placed at more precise points within each quadrant.
The “Eisenhower Method” or “Eisenhower Principle” is a method that utilizes the principles of importance and urgency to organize priorities and workload. This method stems from a quote attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Eisenhower did not claim this insight for his own, but attributed it to an (unnamed) “former college president.”
Using the Eisenhower Decision Principle, tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent, and then placed in according quadrants in an Eisenhower Matrix (also known as an “Eisenhower Box” or “Eisenhower Decision Matrix”). Tasks in the quadrants are then handled as follows.
- 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.
POSEC is an acronym for “Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing”. The method dictates a template which emphasizes an average individual’s immediate sense of emotional and monetary security. It suggests that by attending to one’s personal responsibilities first, an individual is better positioned to shoulder collective responsibilities.
- Inherent in the acronym is a hierarchy of self-realization, which mirrors Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
- Prioritize your time and define your life by goals.
- Organize things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful (family and finances).
- Streamline things you may not like to do, but must do (work and chores).
- Economize things you should do or may even like to do, but they’re not pressingly urgent (pastimes and socializing).
Contribute by paying attention to the few remaining things that make a difference (social obligations).