The Eisenhower Box Exercise #60to15

To paraphrase what I said in the last post, shortening my workday came about in three stages.

  • Stage One: get rid of the “noise” in my day & amplify the signal.
  • Stage Two: optimize the work that was left with tools. We’ll be talking about ZenDesk, Asana, Crowdfire, Freshbooks and IFTTT soon.
  • Stage Three: ruthlessly delegate

Don’t be scared of stage three.

ambermb / Pixabay

Like me, maybe you’ve had a look at outsourcing, and thought “there’s no way I can afford that”.

Well #1 – let me tell you, there’s no way you can’t afford it.

The first time someone told me that I was furious, because I was quite literally broke.

But as it turns out, this was the REASON that I was broke. It was actually costing me more, doing certain things myself.

#2 – it’s no longer necessary to go from doing everything yourself to delegating to other people or companies in one step.

With services like TimeSvr, FancyHands, Speedlancer and even Fiverr, you can get other people who already have basic training to do lots of your work for you.

You can use them to test the waters before you  migrate to finding the perfect person using UpWork or sending part of projects to other companies.

You may even hire a part time or full time virtual or in person executive assistant, which I have done on and off over the years.

You can get there, if that’s what you discover that you want. Right now just put that part aside, and focus on today’s exercise to help you rework your day.

Today: Respect the Eisenhower box.

johnhain / Pixabay

In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steve Covey talks about an Eisenhower box.

It splits tasks into quadrants by both their importance and urgency.

This can help you see your work day more clearly, in terms of what absolutely MUST be done by you, due to expertise or importance. Most of us get caught up in urgent tasks that masquerade as important.

Some of these tasks can be done later or by someone else. Some don’t need to be done at all.

You probably noticed this if you turned off your notifications in the last exercise. (Hint: if you forget to turn them back on, and don’t have an iPhone, set an alarm.)

The Eisenhower Box Exercise

The figure to the right is an Eisenhower box.

Your  exercise is simple.

You’re going to make your task list for tomorrow (or your first available day to be rearranged).

Then you’ll use the Eisenhower box to push things up, down or off the list.

If you’re able to delegate, you can. If you’re not ready for that step, you can delay instead.

With each task, set a priority using the Eisenhower Box, using the shorthand A,  B, C, D.

Items marked priority A are the things that are both urgent and important. B contains items that are important but not urgent.

The C list are urgent, but not inherently important. then D are things that probably shouldn’t be on your list, as they have neither urgency nor importance.

Now pull out your schedule.

Set appointments with yourself to do the things on lists A and C at the top of your day. I like to do a one hour block for getting the most important things off my plate.

Then I put two half-hour blocks for things of C priority. For example, instead of answering email all day every time the notification goes off, I schedule email time.

Things on the B list should get the most time, a two hour block in the part of the day when you’re the sharpest. For most people this is the morning.

Everything on list D you should probably accept that you’ll never get to and move on. This will be easier as you get used to having more control over your work schedule.

For now, try setting them up one per day on your calendar. Or you can lump them in with what I call non-work.

Use Non-work to wind down- or don’t do it at all

PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

Non-work is anything that takes up time in your day, leaving you feeling busy, but not accomplished.

Emails that don’t need immediate action (like new follower notifications).

Meetings/long webinars that an assistant could attend and summarize.

Facebook (even if it’s part of your job, there are times when it falls under non-work).

Idle browsing on the web.

I used to cut these things out completely. Then I realized that some spark creativity in me, or help me come up with things to write.

So here’s my advice on that.

Handle all these things in a scheduled block at the end of your day. Especially if you work at home, it will make it easier to step away from your work day when that time rolls around.

Try this along with the Eisenhower box for three days – I’ll bet you’ll be hooked.

You’ll be working on better things, that advance your business. Your input is now hot. We need to work on your output.

Next, we’ll increase your efficiency.

The tips to increase your output (or maximize your efficiency) are simple tips that you may have heard before. It’s not about what you know though, it’s about what you DO.

Adding a week of working at peak efficiency can shorten your week so much more.

You might even take off early some days, right after you do your A and B tasks.

You can try it out next.

Part of the #60to15 series for entrepreneurs on shortening your work week.

Got tips? Share them to the #60to15 hashtag on Twitter/Instagram, then anyone can read your submission. The best ones will be featured here.