A few days after that life-changing conversation with my friend. I realized that If I wanted to leave the corporate world, not only must I learn how to acquire and create income-generating assets; but more importantly, I have to first enable myself to find alternative sources of cashflow so that I could support my living expenses when I resign from work.
This prompted me to start doing freelance jobs. Doing this was easy at first but eventually, personal projects started to become more demanding with my time.
After a few months, I suddenly found myself sacrificing most of my free time to accomplishing the long list of tasks that I needed to do.
To keep my sanity and avoid feeling overwhelmed with my numerous activities, I learned how to manage my time and properly organize and prioritize my ToDo list.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found is applying the four-quadrant chart about urgency and importance which Stephen Covey devised and taught in his early works. The concept is simple, almost automatic and motivational. Here’s how you can do this:
List down everything you need to do
Even if you have a mega memory, I suggest that you don’t keep everything in your head. Get a pen and notebook and unload them from your mind. Writing down all your tasks makes it easier for you to categorize, break it down and assign a schedule for its completion. Moreover, crossing off an item in your list will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to do more.
Break down complicated tasks into simple ones
Big tasks become less overwhelming when they are divided into several small and easy steps. Do you need to “submit a bid proposal for a project”?
Try to be more specific with your task and break it down into bite-sized actions such as “call the client for the project specifications”, “write down project costs”, “evaluate and assign the pricing”, “type and print the project proposal”, “collect and organize bid requirements”, and “bring project proposal to client’s office”.
Evaluate each task and determine if it is urgent or not AND if it important or not
Everything on the list gets assigned two labels with regards to its urgency and importance. You have to be honest with your evaluation. Checking your emails is not always an urgent task except when you’re waiting for an important response from a contact.
Likewise, keeping up to date with the news is important but given some circumstances, it helps to give it less priority specially when our personal lives need more attention.
Group the tasks into quadrants
- Quadrant 1 – URGENT AND IMPORTANT: Emergencies, deadlines, problems.
- Quadrant 2 – NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTANT: Planning, crisis-prevention, networking, health and recreation, personality development
- Quadrant 3 – URGENT BUT NOT IMPORTANT: Errands, some work activities, social interruptions
- Quadrant 4 – NOT URGENT AND NOT IMPORTANT: Trivial tasks, personal distractions, frivolous activities
Assign a schedule for the urgent tasks and make time to do those which are important
Stop procrastinating and immediately take action on your items in the first quadrant.
Moreover, see if you can make the tasks in the third quadrant less urgent so you can move it to Quadrant 4; if not then immediately finish them and think of ways on how you can avoid having these items under the same quadrant in the future.
More importantly, focus your free time and schedule a date to do the items in Quadrant 2. Accomplishing these tasks are often the ones which propel us forward in life. Lastly, tasks in the fourth quadrant are probably best left undone.
Make it a habit
Always make time to update and evaluate your ToDo list. It helps to write them down in a notebook or a planner which you can conveniently carry around. Effective time and task management is a dynamic process which is reinforced only through discipline, persistence and a proper perspective on what is truly important in our lives.
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Photo courtesy of a mere excursion
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