Time Management : Priority Matrix

Compiled by Bineesh Thomas, Ref: Time Management Basics

Time management is essential for effective people. Time management is the ability to take control of workload, elaborate intense stress of work overload, and function exceptionally well. The below mentioned is a popular technique for task prioritization and time management.


These are urgent and important. They must be done now. These are critical activities and also support you goals. In terms of crises they may be a mixture of problems that you could have avoided with better planning or were completely unexpected.
Highly important and urgent tasks should be pretty rare. Particularly, if you have generally planned well. However, jobs in this box need immediate attention, for example, safety issues must be resolved, family crisis, product quality has been compromised, senior management want data for an urgent meeting etc.

Hopefully, you wont see too many of these sorts of issues.

So what does it mean if you are constantly dealing with crises and fire fighting? If this is the case there is often poor planning at the route of it. This may be your own poor planning in which case you need to deal with it appropriately. If you are a manager and are constantly dragged into dealing with crises materializing from others you will need to deal with their training.

The above techniques will help to keep jobs in box 3 where planning should be carried out more thoroughly. Confusion over importance can push some tasks from box 2 to 1 by mistake.
In terms of your diary do them straight away.


These are ‘urgent’ but ‘not important’. They tend to be jobs not related to your goals but generated by others. Because you don’t really want to spend much time on tasks not connected with your goals you may wish to try an delegate these. These are the tasks with near deadlines but not relevant to your own goals. Much of your daily activity will come under this heading.
There will be plenty of jobs in this category that are trivial in themselves but would have serious consequences if not done, for example, paying Bills. Try to spend as little time as possible on this category of task.

People will still spend more time than is necessary on these jobs for a variety of reasons. If you particularly like a task you will keep with it for too long. You believe the job is ‘important’ when in fact it isn’t (just urgent) although it may well be important to others it is not to you. If the quality of the task output is too high (unnecessarily) then you will tend to take up too much time. The key with items that should only command a small amount of your time is to make sure you understand what is required and do not exceed that requirement.

You will need to put these tasks into your diary for completion ahead of the deadline and plan to give them as little time as possible.


These items are ‘not urgent’. This means their deadlines are in the future. They are important so you must do them. So plan them well for carrying out in the future. A lot of jobs will fall in this area make sure you plan properly or you will have problems later. These tasks are relevant to your goals so are ‘important’ but ‘not urgent’ in that their deadlines are not immediate.
There are two key sorts of tasks that may appear here to be wary of. The first are tasks that if left undone can easily end up in Box 1 as a crisis. By ‘done’ we mean that you thoroughly assess these and plan their completion Rigorously so that you are not surprised later with unforeseen events.

Anything can end up in Box 1 if you leave it long enough. If you find too many items ending up in Box 1 ask ‘why?’ and learn from the experience so that it will not happen again.


These are neither ‘urgent’ or ‘important’. These can be simple trivial tasks that you ought to avoid doing but you may end up doing just to ‘get them out of the way’. Be wary as some of these tasks may be trivial now but they may move into a higher ranked category if not seen to. These are the rest of the tasks that are ‘not urgent’ and ‘not important’. If you leave these jobs to simmer for say 4 weeks they will either jump to becoming ‘urgent’ into Box 2 or you may find that they are irrelevant and you can bin them. Some items that would be in this area you may be able to automate at a time When you do not need to be there. For example, computers can be backed up, checked for viruses and adware whilst you are sleeping.

If you are inundated with jobs one option is to work longer hours. This is the least attractive option if this carries on for any length of time as it can be physically and mentally draining. The long term option is to improve your Time Management skills. Many items in Box 4 are done just for fun as they are neither ‘important’ or ‘urgent’.


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