Last week I wrote and talked about a helpful decision-making matrix and the four quadrants of Urgent vs. Important.
Here is the Chart with the four quadrants I talked about last week; now I am emphasizing the second quadrant: Not Urgent, Important, which is this week’s focus.
Today I want to suggest ways of helping you get more of the important/not urgent things on your list done.
I need to give you more examples first.
Urgent and Important things (quadrant 1):
An appointment at the dentist to fill a cavity (you can’t live in pain another minute!)
Getting your car serviced (you know what happens if you put this off)
Getting your hair cut (you are going on vacation and want to look nice)
Not Urgent, Important things (quadrant 2):
Improving a relationship by learning better ways to communicate
Decluttering your bedroom closet so you can find things easier
Learning a new skill that will simplify your life
Urgent but not important things (quadrant 3):
Helping a friend move (she is moving in a couple of days, but she can find some other help)
Wrapping a gift for a birthday party (you can bring the gift unwrapped or slip it in a bag)
Baking cookies for a bake sale (you can buy some cookies rather than bake them)
Not Urgent and Not Important things: (quadrant 4):
Check your social media every time you hear your phone ding (your phone is not your boss!)
Window shopping (it may be fun, but it usually winds up in buying things you don’t need)
Reading junk mail (toss it and forget it)
Take a look at your to-do list and try to sort the items into the four quadrants. Also, begin to analyze your days. How much time are you spending in each quadrant?
The trick is finding more time in your life for what is important. It is easy to do the urgent things on your list because there are usually consequences if you don’t. And, it is pretty easy to eliminate the “Not Important, Not Urgent” things from your schedule and not too difficult to eliminate the “Urgent but not important things.”
What is more difficult is getting those “Important, Not Urgent” things to start happening!
HERE ARE MY THREE TIPS:
First: Set a deadline and tell someone about it
The non-urgent but important things usually do not set deadlines, so they are easy to put off. So it is up to you to make them urgent. You can do this by setting a deadline for completion. You may have had an important project on your weekly to-do list but find that you keep moving it from week to week, then month to month, then year to year! Years can go by, and you still are not getting around to those important things you want to do! Setting realistic deadlines can be an important first step to finally doing those important things.
Also, tell someone what you want to do and when you want to complete it. By being accountable to someone else, you can have their help remind you how important you said that important project was to you. In addition, that person can check up on you and ask how you are doing. Accountability is a powerful tool, and you will find it makes a massive difference in your motivation.
Second: Set up reminders.
There is a reason your important project is never getting done — you keep forgetting to do it. You usually do not forget the urgent things because you have them on your calendar, and you keep running them over in your brain.
You need to set up some reminders for those things that are not urgent, but you want to include them in your week because they are important to you. You probably have a list of new habits you want to have and projects you need to do.
Examples would be setting alarms on your phone to drink a glass of water every hour or a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to use a special enamel-protecting toothpaste three times a week.
In the book entitled Tiny Habits, the author BJ Fogg says it helps to tack on the important habit you are trying to develop onto something you are already doing. For example, tacking on a stretching exercise every time you go to the bathroom because stretching muscles is important.
Third: Set up a reward for completing your important project
Make sure the reward is significant enough to motivate you to get the project done. Maybe it is losing ten pounds of body clutter. Examples of a reward could be buying a new outfit or going on a fun night out, or perhaps even a trip away to someplace fun. Or, after decluttering your bedroom, you can reward yourself with some attractive new bedding for your bed.
If the project has several phases or steps, then set up several rewards. Be good to yourself!
I now have this matrix of priority firmly implanted in my brain. And I do find I get more done when I ask myself questions like: “Is this the most important thing I need to be doing right now?”
What is one important, not urgent, task you would like to start on this week? Do you think the above three tips will help you get it done? Why or why not?