Work-life balance starts with knowing what is important. Since time is a finite resource, there will always a trade-off and we must learn to prioritize. Additionally, when everything is important nothing is important. So, I encourage you to become familiar with a great tool called The Eisenhower Urgency Matrix.
Shown here, this is one of my favorite tools for visualizing and reflecting on the many demands on our time. As stated by Dwight D. Eisenhower, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” With this concept in mind, it’s extremely useful to understand each quadrant of this matrix and apply it to your life.
- Quadrant 1: Items which are both Urgent and Important. These items require immediate attention and have a significant impact on the bigger picture of our life. Examples may be an emergency, deadline, or unforeseen problems. Remember, we all know the difference between an emergency and an EMERGENCY. Sometimes we just need perspective to note the difference.
- Quadrant 2: Items which are Not Urgent but Important. These are the items that matter deeply to us and have a significant impact on our lives, but don’t really have a pressing deadline. Examples may be planning, self-care, relationships.
- Quadrant 3: Items which are Urgent but Not Important. Items in this quadrant often require our attention, but don’t necessarily make our lives better. Examples may be interruptions, push notifications, unannounced visitors.
- Quadrant 4: Items which are Not Urgent and Not Important. These items do not have a pressing timeline or do that enhance your life. Examples may be tv, scrolling, gossip.
Remember that although there are trends, items are defined by you as they relate to your life in the season you are in. One day a few episodes of your favorite show may be recharging self-care and other it may be wasted time.
Once you understand the four quadrants, I challenge you to do the following:
- Jot down everything you did in the past 24 hours.
- Label each item as a 1-4, corresponding to the quadrants in the matrix.
In which quadrant did you spend the most time? What did you identify as important (Q1 & Q2)? How do you feel about where your time is going?
This is a great start to aligning your time with what is truly important, and one of the building blocks to a life of better balance.