How To Use Covey Time Management Matrix

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey discussed how most people have limited time management skills. He gave examples using a story about a car driver who has a three-hour commute every day. Most likely this person is spending their time in idle distractions while traveling this length of distance.

He then described what we refer to as “time compression” or "high efficiency time management." This means doing more activity in less time. For example, instead of taking your normal lunch break, you can eat quickly and efficiently at work so that you do not waste any time after that. Or, if you normally spend two hours getting ready for work, reduce it down to just one hour!

There are several reasons why having high efficiency time management is important. First, it helps you get things done faster – saving you time. Second, it may help you achieve higher goals because you use up all available time effectively. And third, it may strengthen your work ethic by requiring you to be efficient with your time. You will need to learn how to say no to things if you want to avoid being overwhelmed.

The timing of these changes depends on you but general recommendations are making such changes before bedtime and early morning as times when there is little interruption. Try out both versions to see which works better for you.

This article will go into detail on how to use the matrix method to organize your daily life.

Read the whole time management matrix article

how to use covey time management matrix

The second part of this system is the timing framework or time box method. This was first described by Robert Allen in his book _The Power Of Your Time_ and it has become one of the most popular time management systems out there.

This method uses a chart that illustrates how you should organize your days. The organization comes down to three columns and two rows. The columns are for work, personal, and social domains, while the row is either start of day or end of day.

Within each column, there are several slots that can be filled. Each slot represents an area of your life that you want to spend more time doing. For example, if you wanted to devote more time to reading, you would place yourself into a read slot under the personal domain. You could also put yourself into a study slot or a reading room slot depending on what type of studying or reading you like to do.

The other column has spaces to fill at the beginning of the day or the end of the day. These are dependent upon whether you prefer starting your daily routine with task initiation or goal setting.

So, let’s look at an example. Let’s say that you want to read for one hour every morning before leaving the house. Your read slot will have you spending one hour every morning just reading.

Read the whole “5 levels of importance” article

In order to use the matrix effectively, you must first understand the 5 level concept. This article is an excellent primer for that!

So what are these five levels? They're categorized into three groups depending upon how urgent the task is and whether it can be done immediately, within the next few hours or days. Level one is the most important thing to remember when using this tool — all tasks belong here.

This means that every item in your schedule belongs here. Even if a task is only for yourself (like reading this article), it should still go into the matrix as being at least medium-urgency and so long as it doesn't take too long, it can wait until later.

By including everything in the matrix, you give your brain a chance to recognize and organize them. This helps reduce stress and makes accomplishing things faster because you don't have to deal with hard deadlines for each individual task. It also gives you time to evaluate which items need to be put off or pushed back since they've been given a place in your day.

Read the whole “5 levels of urgency” article

how to use covey time management matrix

In his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey divided all tasks into five different levels of ‘urgency.'’ He called these levels urgent, important, significant, crucial, or top priority.

Level one is for things that are only slightly more important than others. Examples of level two items include taking a short break, doing the grocery list, or running an errand.

Level three is something that is less important but still needs to get done. These are typically non-critical assignments such as answering the phone, making copies, or sending emails.

At level four are projects that have moved beyond anything more formal than an assignment. This includes writing a paper, designing a website, or even planning a vacation.

The most important task in this category would be changing your own schedule to focus on this project.

Look at the different categories in the time management matrix

how to use covey time management matrix

In the left column, you have your Non-Priority Areas (NPA’s) or areas of the book that do not require your attention. These are typically referred to as Your Life Goals or What You Want To Do With Your life.

These include things like studying, working, sharing your faith with others, etc. If you want to be successful, you must give yourself permission to spend time outside of these NPA’s.

You cannot fully devote yourself to achieving your NPAs until you make this shift. It will take some work but once done, you can focus all of your energy on them!

The next row is an important one called ‘Urgent & Important Work.’ This includes activities such as earning money, caring for children, practicing medicine, and so on.

However, if you are able to allocate enough time to these NPA’s then it will free up enough time for necessary urgent tasks. For example, if you are a doctor, you can put off attending patients while you find out what you need to know about being a doctor.

Make a list of everything you should do

how to use covey time management matrix

The next step in using the matrix is making a list of all the things you need to get done. This can be anything from small tasks like going to the grocery store to larger projects that require more time, such as writing your book or quitting your job.

Once you have this list, you will want to prioritize it by considering two factors – how important the item is and how much time you have available.

The most important items will go at the top, and the less important ones will drop off of the list as they are given higher priority. By doing this, you will create some extra time for other activities because not every little thing needs to happen immediately.

After completing this process, re-evaluate the items on the list. Some may fall out due to budget constraints or being able to focus only on high priorities.

Try out different time management strategies

how to use covey time management matrix

There are many ways to use the matrix to organize your time. You do not have to stick to this tool, but it is very helpful if you want to make the most of your time.

There are several types of users that create their own organization system in the matrix. This includes people who allocate time for each column (work areas) and row (personal activities).

This does not necessarily mean that these individuals cannot be successful with the matrix, but it may take them more effort to achieve that success.

Some people choose to focus only on the columns or the rows, which can sometimes feel like they are taking away from the other parts of the matrix.

Track your progress

how to use covey time management matrix

The next step in using the matrix effectively is tracking your progress. You can do this by either making notes or creating charts and graphs.

You could make notes in a notebook, use an app on your phone, create a chart, or use another type of tracker that you have already. Whatever method you choose to be most efficient for you, just make sure it’s easy to access and quickly review.

Tracking your time every day with the matrix will help you identify areas where you are spending too much time on certain tasks and projects and need to allocate more time to them. It also helps you see how well you are doing at keeping yourself organized and on track.

Multitask or not?

how to use covey time management matrix

The first key part of the matrix is deciding if you should be able to multitask at all. There are two main reasons why we feel like we can’t focus well on one thing while doing something else.

The first reason is that our brains don’t know how to process multiple things simultaneously. We get so used to thinking about one thing for a length of time, then we try to do another, and it feels like there’s a mental block in place.

The second reason has to do with energy. When we’re trying to concentrate hard on one task, we have to spend a lot of mental energy doing that.

We need a good amount of energy to invest in other activities too. So, when we have a few minutes here or there where we could use some extra concentration, we decide against it.

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