In business we often find ourselves going round in circles, unable to achieve our targets, doing the same things over and over again either because it has become a habit or because it’s the way things have always been done. I recommend that you try an activity that I have found extremely helpful. Although this appears to be a really simple exercise, it is also a powerful tool that will increase your self-awareness and better your business practices. Be prepared to step back from doing the usual, look objectively at your life, realize that this is a perspective you have never considered before and make changes that will improve your life dramatically.
The Quadrant Exercise
Make a mental list of all the tasks that you have to accomplish either for the day, the week, or the month. Don’t worry if you don’t know everything that you want to accomplish just yet; you can always add to the list later as and when new requirements come up.
Start by dividing a sheet of paper into two halves. These halves will represent the complexity and difficulty levels of your tasks. Everything that you find easy to do and work on will go into the top half, and all those tasks that you find hard to do, things that require a lot of time, effort and energy will be placed in the lower half.
Divide the page further into four quadrants. In the left column place those tasks which will result in a big outcome or achievement and in the right column note down those tasks which will result in a small outcome or achievement. Your page should look like this:
Now that you’ve broken it down assess every task that you do and evaluate what is the next step that you need to take. It helps to think ahead to foresee any challenges that might present itself when dealing with a particular task.
Easy Tasks with Big Results
This is the quadrant that you should be focusing on. The tasks are easy and the outcome’s big. These are the jobs that are ensuring the most money accrued to you or your employer with minimal inputs of time and energy. The jobs in this quadrant are the ones you need to do more of and prioritize in your time management plan.
Easy Tasks with Small Results
This is the quadrant that you need to be most vigilant about, keep asking yourself. “Why am I doing these tasks?”, “How much time am I dedicating to tasks with minimal returns”, “Am I doing these tasks only because they are pleasurable?” These are tasks that don’t achieve your business goals and should be given the least priority. Actively question yourself if the time you spend on these tasks is justified. For me, networking is one such task, I love socialising and find that every now and then I have to stop myself from falling into a trap and question if the networking event I attended actually generated business or if I was just having fun.
Difficult Task with Big results
If you find yourself avoiding these tasks, stop and change your direction, this is the quadrant where you put the most effort in. This is where you need to rally support to make things easier. Here is where you ask the questions, “How can I get support?”, “How can I delegate?”, “How can I bring somebody on board?”, “Can I make this a joint venture?” Take stock of what you have available within your support mechanisms and what you need to source from elsewhere. Maybe you need to get a virtual assistant. Maybe you need to delegate or work with a team. Find out how to make these tasks easier and effortless.
Difficult Task with Small results
And here is where you break your habits. Why else would you be putting in time and effort into a difficult job with a low outcome? Here is where you ask yourself a very pertinent question, “Why am I doing this?” If you find yourself replying that it’s because that’s the way things have always been done, you have found the hurdle to your success. Here is where your system needs to be overhauled, habits need to be broken, systems need to change! It’s quite often that you’ve outgrown a system or a procedure. Why else would we be spending effort, energy, and resources for nothing?
It’s as simple as that, four lists of tasks in four quadrants defining your time management, productivity and prioritization skills all in one glance. It’s a simple tool to effectively make much larger changes. If it’s easy with big results, how can you do more? If it’s easy with low results, are you doing it for self-gratification? If it’s hard with big results, how can you make it easier? If it’s hard with a low result, why are you even doing it? Is it a bad habit? Is it an outdated system? How can you improve the process?
If you ask yourself these few simple questions, you might find that your business practices will improve greatly.
If you’d like some strategies to help you be more organised or focused, book a time to arrange your complimentary strategy session.