“If an audience only listens, they take away 12% of your content. By making it more visual, you can increase audience comprehension and recall to 26%. But when you really engage and respond, their comprehension and ‘take away’ goes up.” at 51%”. Mark Lavergne
The Urgent Important Matrix is an incredibly simple and powerful tool to help your clients manage their time more effectively. It is also a compelling and useful tool to use in a workshop or seminar, engaging and responding.
Using a simple grid, define the tasks according to their importance and urgency:
- Quadrant 1 – Crisis – URGENT and IMPORTANT
- Quadrant 2 – Goals and Planning – NOT URGENT and IMPORTANT
- Quadrant 3 – Interruptions – URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
- Quadrant 4 – Distractions – NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
10 easy steps to use the urgent important matrix in a workshop or seminar
1. INTRODUCTION: First, share the general matrix with your workshop attendees and make sure they understand the concept. Ideally, this is done by drawing it on a whiteboard or flipchart.
2) TO A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING: Next, review each quadrant and ask your workshop attendees to share examples of activities they think fit into each quadrant—not just their own, but also things they see other people doing. If necessary, start with a couple of suggestions of your own (see list below). And as people shout them out, write them on the white board or flipchart.
Quadrant 1 — Important AND urgent tasks that we call “Crisis”. Examples include; an important customer calling and complaining that they STILL haven’t received their order, an immovable deadline for a project that’s looming and nowhere near complete, their electricity has been cut off because they forgot to pay their bill, an urgent trip to to the dentist for something that has been bothering you for a while.
Quadrant 2: important and non-urgent tasks that we call goals and planning. These include things like reviewing priorities and tasks, working on important projects, home maintenance and renovations, scheduling health appointments early enough, budgeting (at work and at home), paying bills, building relationships in the work/networking, maintain close relationships at home, exercise and eat well.
Quadrant 3 — Unimportant and urgent tasks that we call interruptions. Examples of interruptions from others include family interruptions, unimportant phone calls, some email (especially the email ‘pinger’), and unimportant/other people meetings.
Quadrant 4: Non-important and non-urgent tasks that we call distractions. These include constantly checking e-mail, excessive television, Internet or computer game use, excessive relaxation and sleeping, self-critical thoughts, gossiping/idle talk, and unique ‘escape’ activities.
3) MAKE IT PERSONAL: So now have your assistants draw the quadrants (or give them a printed version) and ask them to fill in specific examples that are unique to them in each quadrant. Make sure everyone has at least one personal example in EACH quadrant.
4) EVALUATION: Then ask them to calculate the percentage of time they spend in each quadrant and write that number in each quadrant. NB. Make sure this is a gut feeling: ask for their instant first response so they don’t have time to adjust the numbers and make them sound better! If necessary, remind them that honesty and conscientiousness are keys to making improvements.
5) REVIEW TIME: So, which quadrant do you spend the MOST of your time in? How does it feel? Why do you think that is? The percentage and personal activities you have assigned to each quadrant now gives you the opportunity to review how a) your time management (or lack thereof) affects how you feel and b) how you could spend your time more effectively.
Quadrant 1 — Crisis — Are you stressed? For people who spend most of their time in crisis, highlight the negative impacts of stress. Maybe dealing with crises is part of your job? Or maybe they just like drama? How could they spend more time in Quadrant 2?
Quadrant 2 — Goals and Planning — For the people who spend most of their time on goals and planning, excellent, congratulations! They probably feel in control, are clear about where they are going, and may even be relaxed in their jobs. Help them out by asking how they could be EVEN more effective. Are they building relationships for when possible crises arrive? Are you having enough fun? Do they need some interruptions and distractions?
Quadrant 3 — Interruptions — People who spend a lot of time here are probably frustrated, stressed and feel like they never get anything done. The solutions often consist of finding ways to say “No” to others so that they spend some of their time working on their important projects.
Quadrant 4 — Distractions — People who spend a lot of time here are probably unmotivated, unclear about their priorities, and likely stressed or frustrated with themselves. Solutions often revolve around finding meaning and purpose, gaining clarity, and saying “No” to ourselves.
Advice: People who spend most of their time in Quadrants 3 and 4 often lack inspiration and motivation. They may be in the wrong job, tired and/or stressed and could be using these activities to ‘get away’. They may need help clarifying and identifying important tasks and priorities, or they may need help seeing how what they are doing adds value. They may also need some constructive ‘fun’ or time off set aside in their journals to make it easier to work hard when they need to.
All of these areas are excellent for follow-up training. You may also find that a client can really benefit from identifying what is truly important to him and aligning her career and/or life with her values. And while you may not want to cover values in this workshop, it could be a great follow-up workshop or something you could offer people interested in personal training afterward.
What we are looking for: The goal of The Urgent Important Matrix is for people to prioritize both working and planning on their important projects, and this means spending time in Quadrant 2. This also means addressing your problems BEFORE they become urgent. We also want people to be aware of where they are distracted and interrupted so they can minimize time ‘wasted’ in these areas. They can then use the time saved and spend it in Quadrant 2.
6) LEARNING: So what’s stopping you from better managing your time, specifically? Give them some examples and let them reflect for a moment. Then put them into smaller groups of 3-5 to discuss the underlying reasons why each of them spends the time they spend in each of the quadrants. The purpose is not to have a ‘grievance session’ but to try to identify the exact causes. This part can also be done as an individual or whole group exercise depending on the size of the group and the dynamics of the attendees. Finally, have each group report back to the main group on their findings.
Examples to start with include having a boss who is unclear on priorities and keeps assigning you new tasks. Perhaps the systems and processes they use create unnecessary extra work. Maybe the job is routine and boring. Maybe people aren’t clear on what they’re doing and keep bugging you for clarification. Or maybe your desk is next to the water cooler for people to keep chatting with. Make sure they are specific and can pinpoint the problem before identifying solutions.
7) SELF-AWARENESS: Where do they sabotage themselves? It’s time for your attendees to do some personal introspection. Where are THEY the cause of your problems? Help them take some ownership. Examples of self-sabotage include: do you run effective meetings? Do you have trouble saying No? Do they enjoy drama or a ‘hero’ role? Perhaps they find it difficult to prioritize or perhaps they lack discipline and focus? Are you bored and uninspired in your life? Do they see relationship building as a waste of time?
NB. It is best done as an individual exercise unless there is already a high level of trust among the attendees.
8) MOTIVATION: So how would you like to spend your time differently? What’s in it for them? People may like or want to improve their time management, but until they are really motivated, they won’t make the necessary changes. So help them figure out what’s in it for them: a promotion, a raise, some training, more time with the kids, a new job or career, or maybe just doing less of what they hate and more of what they love. So ask the group, “How would your lives be different if you managed your time more effectively?” And let them share their ideas so everyone can listen and be inspired.
9) TAKE ACTION: So what could they do? Time to brainstorm. Gather people alone or, if you can, in groups of 3 to 5, and ask them to work together so that EVERY ONE comes up with 3 to 5 possible actions to improve their time management. You don’t have to put all of them into action; this is just a brainstorming exercise. Maybe they could request some training or find a book on the subject, set aside time each morning or evening to plan their day, or maybe they could schedule a regular meeting with their team or boss to clarify priorities. Maybe they could start work earlier when you’re calm and focus on getting the most important tasks done. Or maybe they need to feel like they are adding value or having fun, even if this is in their personal life and not in their work life.
10) COMMIT: Finally, ask them for 1-3 specific actions that they will commit to. They must choose at least one action to remove and work. Make sure this action is something they can implement right away, or the next day or so. What is the KEY action that will make the difference in its effectiveness? Ask them to only choose actions that they are 100% sure they are inspired by. If necessary do the smallest action, until they can commit one hundred percent. Ask them to WRITE the action down and, if you wish, have them sign and date it for additional commitment.
Once everyone has at least one action, ask them to share their actions, either with the group or with the person next to them. This will depend on the time you have left and the size of the group.
As a summary, it is always useful and interesting (for you and the other attendees) to ask people what their biggest gains from the session are. What has helped you the most?
And remember, if applicable, mention that you’d love to work with people more if they’d like help managing their time better, committing to their actions, creating a healthy lifestyle, or maybe working on their values. Finally, make sure you have some business cards and promotional materials to hand out and give away (and if they have a time-management approach, all the better). Now you are ready to go – enjoy your workshop!
Click here to see the urgent important matrix as an image.