awareness

Time management

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool25601784Manolis Stratakis

Is the time in our day enough?

Time is one of the most democratic things on the planet. Not intelligence. Neither money. Not even health or beauty. Not happiness. Time! Everybody has 24 hours. If you think about it, time is our most important asset. We start off as babies, having all the time of the world and as we grow up we come to a point when every single minute of our day is occupied with something. Then we complain we don’t have time. Wrong! We still have 24 hours. But our day is now filled with stuff. Now, it’s time for.. time management!

The Matrix as a time management tool

“When you don’t have time, make time”. It may sound counter-intuitive, but perhaps it is a perfect advice. The Eisenhower Matrix is the tool we need to make time.

US General and President Eisenhower once said:

I have two kinds of problems: Urgent and Important.

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important

Eisenhower Matrix

A common pattern in businesses but also in our personal life is that we often move insanely from one urgent matter to the next, having practically no time to attend to the important issues. Like a never-ending queue of urgent things which, no matter how many we complete, new ones continuously appear. We are at a constant war with a modern Lernaean Hydra. We cut one head and two new heads spring out of nowhere.

Let’s dive deep in time management

If we analyze the four areas of the Eisenhower matrix, it will immediately become clear how it will help us in our time management:

Quadrant 1: (Urgent and Important): Do First!

This is the most critical area, it contains tasks that are both urgent and important. These are “do first” tasks because they are critical for our life or career. Typical Q1 activities include important problems, deadlines and crises.

Quadrant 2: (Important, but Not Urgent): Schedule!

Here we place the tasks that are important, but not urgent. This is where we need to invest most of our time. These are usually our personal and professional long-term goals and activities relevant to the significant areas of our life like education, career, family, recreation or personal growth. Put these tasks in suspension until you find enough time to work on them carefully. Beware, these tasks may not be urgent, but if left neglected, sooner or later they become urgent.

Quadrant 3 (Not Important, but Urgent): Delegate!

If a task deserves to be in this quadrant, then you don’t deserve to perform it. It is most likely a distraction and you better pass it to someone else or postpone it. Many tasks appear to be urgent when actually they are not. Most messages and telephone calls fall into this category. If you answer every call or text you receive immediately, then you will not be able to do anything that requires undistracted attention. The same is true with business meetings. You don’t have to participate in every meeting you are invited, you can choose if you need to be present or not. A common source of Q3 activities is other people. Saying “no” politely or encouraging them to solve the problem themselves usually does the trick.

Quadrant 4: (Not Important, Not Urgent): Eliminate or Keep to a minimum!

These tasks that are neither important nor urgent are simply time wasters and they should be eliminated, or cut down to a minimum. If you drastically reduce the amount of time spent in quadrant 4 tasks, you will free up lots of precious time for your quadrant 1 or 2 tasks. Mindlessly watching television, playing games or surfing the web are only some of the typical ways for wasting time. This does not mean of course that watching a good movie or resting is a waste of time. We need to be very careful when distinguishing what is and what isn’t important for us.

Procrastination and time management

Sometimes, procrastination kicks in when we are not very clear about what is important or urgent. It causes confusion and leaves us standing still while trying to decide what to bring on the foreground next.

When you first try this tool, you may have some difficulty labeling your tasks. It may be frustrating and you may feel you are wasting your time. You are not wasting time, you are investing some of your precious time learning a great skill that will empower you with precious focus and self-awareness. It will save you way more time for the rest of your life.

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Increase your awareness by reading our article: Awareness Sharpening Games

 

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Mind relaxation exercises

Mind relaxation exercises150150Manolis Stratakis

The following exercises will help you sharpen your observation and augment your cognizance. They will help you kick away the tension of the day and relax your body and mind. Select those that suit you and perform them a few times a day.

Relaxation

I. Sit in a comfortable position, simply with your eyes closed for 5’

II. If there are any external sounds, just focus on them without doing anything else

III. If there are no external sounds, just focus on your breath

Stretching

I. Bend and touch your toes with your fingers. If you find it difficult, just bend a little and touch your knees. Repeat after a few minutes. Was it a bit easier this time? Repeat again. Do you see how your flexibility is improved after some consecutive attempts?

II. Stretch any of the muscles in your body for 1-2 minutes. Think how you felt before and after.

Observation

I. Scan your body from head to toes for a couple of minutes. Try to identify points of interest like:

  • Pain
  • Tension
  • Relaxation

II. As you drive your car, feel your weight on the seat, your hands on the steering wheel, the position of your hands and legs.

III. Consciously observe the texture of the objects you touch with your hands

  • Hardness
  • Temperature
  • Moisture
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Mindfulness and awareness sharpening games

Mindfulness and awareness sharpening games150150Manolis Stratakis

Exercise: Mindfulness and awareness games

Play as many of the mindfulness games described below, as you can. Learn to bring yourself to the here and now. In the long term, they will help you gain a better perception of your body and of the environment, which is very important for a calm and pleasant life.

When brushing your teeth

Try this with your eyes closed for 1-2 minutes. Feel the contact and the overall sense of the toothbrush hair on your teeth and gums. Feel the toothpaste foam bubbles that burst in your mouth. Focus just on a single sense at a time.

In the shower

Allow your mind to have a short break by focusing on one sense at a time. Pay mindful attention to the water drops which fall on your head and your skin. Or to the sound of the water which falls on the shower floor.

On the treadmill

Switch off the iPod and close your eyes (hold the side handles if possible) and listen to the sound of the machine, your breath or the other sounds around you. Try to focus on the feeling of the particular muscles which are exercised. Let time pass without thinking anything. Just feel how your body responds.

When eating

Chew slowly your food, for at least 30-40 times each mouthful. The first times you may need to count but after a while, it becomes a habit. Try to feel the taste and the texture of the food as it changes. Switch off the TV and your mobile phone.

Avoid to do anything else in parallel. Just focus in all the details you can detect about your food. Try it for at least a few times so you can enjoy the experience and then you decide whether you want to continue.

When you touch an object or a person

Try to do it in an active manner, with cognizance. Feel the sensation of the touch. Check the pressure on your fingers or your body. Feel the temperature (heat or coolness) that emits, the hardness, the moisture, the energy. Sense all the feelings this touch generates.

While seated

Feel your weight on the chair. Recognize the contact points. Scan your body. What are the angles of your arms, legs and pelvis? At which points do you detect some tension? What points feel totally relaxed?

Lean forward or shift your body slightly at some direction. Is it better now or worse? Do some tests and gain as much awareness as you can.

While you wait

Look around you. Observe the people and the objects you see. Try to pay mindful attention to every detail you can identify. If there no other objects to observe, turn your attention to yourself. Focus on your breath. How does it feel? Shallow and short? Deep and relaxed?

What feelings can you detect? Anxiety and impatience? Peacefulness and boredom? Whatever you feel is temporary and it is ok. Remember that you gain control this way.

When in pain

Locate the pain point. Its size. What “color” is it? How much space does it take? What is its exact shape and intensity? What is its composition and temperature? Is it stable? Does it move, throb or thump? Is it acute and piercing? Is it sharp?

Finally, recognize, embrace and approve the pain!

Exercise: More mindfulness and awareness games

Try to level up your mindfulness by devising your own awareness and mindfulness games!

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See also: Use the Wheel of Emotions to enrich your emotional vocabulary!

 

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