mind order

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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flow

How often do you experience Flow?

How often do you experience Flow?23512126Manolis Stratakis

The state of Flow

We have all been involved in activities where we have intense concentration and total commitment. During these activities we feel that we are very competent. We have complete control of the situation. Our skills operate to the fullest. The sense of time, as well as any negative emotions disappear. We are overwhelmed by a wonderful sense of transcendence. Whenever we have experience this situation, we are in a state of flow.

The phenomenon of flow, was first referenced by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. He describes it as follows:

“the mental state of flow is being completely absorbed in an activity, for the activity itself and only. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought inevitably follows the preceding, as if playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”.

Our Growth, Stagnation and Flow zones

Stagnation zone

We all have to deal with various daily activities. Some of them are simple and easy. We have repeated them over many times, so they have become automatic. They do not pose any difficulty for us, so they often result in a loss of interest. Dealing with them may be comfortable, but we will soon find them boring. When we stay for long in our comfort zone, it will sooner or later transform into a stagnation zone.

Growth zone

There are some other tasks which are new to us, therefore unknown, or they may be familiar but tough. These tasks take us out of our comfort zone. Usually, they can cause discomfort, anxiety or fear. However, these are the ones that help us develop and grow. That’s where our growth zone is.

Flow zone

Finally, there are those tasks whose difficulty is almost matching our level of skill. When we are in this kind of activities, we are in heaven. We engage completely. Time disappears. We feel we are in absolute control. We can continue those activities for hours, without feeling hungry or thirsty.

Flow, therefore, is the mental state we experience, when we perform an activity, in which we are completely absorbed with a sense of active concentration and complete immersion, while enjoying the whole process.

Note that, it is not simply the balance between task difficulty and skill level which causes flow, but the balance in higher levels of difficulty and skill. In lower levels even when balance exists, we may be in a state of apathy or lack of interest.

Flow: the optimal experience

The Optimal experienceas Csikszentmihalyi named this mental state – usually occurs when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits, in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

“Optimal experience, when flow is realized, is thus something we make happen”.

Flow’s eight mental states

The flow model recognizes eight emotional mental states:

  1. Apathy – there is no interest, we are apathetic
  2. Boredom – we are bored and maybe run-down
  3. Relaxation – we have a feeling of calmness, but also lack of excitement
  4. Worry – if our focus is on worry, our problems grow and become harder
  5. Control – we have a feeling of dominance. Our activity is hard, but we are in command of the situation
  6. Anxiety – if we are anxious, we may freeze or shut down
  7. Arousal – in this state we approach our surroundings more attentively
  8. Flow – we focus completely on the task or activity, leading to the most successful results

Generally, people who masterwork life, art, sports or a hobby, all have flow experiences. From the outside, it may seem like they are doing the task with great ease. However, if you look at it from within, they have completely devoted themselves to what they are doing in order to achieve this level of mastery.

The Order of Mind

The best state of our inner experience happens when there is order in our minds. For this to happen, we must have realistic goals and our skill level has to match the challenge. The pursuit of a goal brings order to a person’s consciousness, as they have to concentrate on the task at hand and forget about everything else. The times when we struggle to overcome various challenges are the happiest of our life. Thus, the persons investing in consciously chosen goals can only grow into higher beings.

Characteristics of Flow

We all had flow experiences, therefore it is not difficult to recognize some of their characteristics:

  1. We have clear, specific, demanding but feasible goals
  2. Our concentration is in the present moment and in the actual activity, with no room in mind for any other information
  3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding
  4. There is a sense of tranquility
  5. Usually time passes much faster than expected
  6. We have immediate feedback on the progress
  7. We feel a balance between the task difficulty and our skill level. There is a feeling of assertiveness and self-confidence
  8. There is a sense of control over the activity, with no worries about failure
  9. We lose awareness of our physical needs

Theoretically, athletes and artists are more likely to experience flow. However, flow can be hiding in simple everyday activities, like housekeeping or reading a good book.

Electronic games are probably the most characteristic example, as they lead to flow by design. This is the main reason they cause strong addiction to teenagers and adults.

The following skills can help us achieve a state of flow:

  • curiosity
  • interest in life
  • persistence
  • low ego

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Read also the article: Step out of your comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development

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