Time Management Matrix – explained

Sue Heward explains how to use a Time Management Matrix effectively

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay


The Time Management Matrix is a business model that helps you distinguish between activity and achievement, in that it helps to identify those items that deserve your time and attention and will impact on your ultimate results.

Rather than simply having a “to do” list, it judges every activity against the following criteria:

1. Important and Urgent

Those tasks that will have the greatest impact on results and the achievement of objectives. These include crises, long term problems, deadline driven projects.

2. Important but Not Urgent

Those items that will have a considerable impact on results. These include planning, preparation and prevention, relationship building, developing others.

The danger with these tasks is that they are vital but not time driven.

A report or business plan needed for 3 months time is often sidelined, in favour of the immediate, or an easier and quicker task.

However, sooner or later these issues will become time sensitive, when you may not be able to devote the time for reflection and analysis that the items require.

3. Not Important, but Urgent

These include other peoples’ “urgents”, some meetings, some calls, e:mails and interruptions and activities we enjoy doing. The danger is we concentrate on these issues to the detriment to those items that are important, but not urgent.

4. Not important/ not Urgent – “busy work”.

These include items that are easy to do and give us a sense of accomplishment such as time and expenses sheets, some mail, photocopying, some phone calls, paperwork.

These activities are best done when your energy dips and should be done in short bursts of half an hour.

Why is the Time Management Matrix important?

Similar to the Pareto Principle, it allows you to concentrate on what is really important.

Using it means you are reflecting and planning, rather than simply reacting.

This is good for business as it means you are concentrating on what is considered by the organisation as important, and is good for you as it gives you a sense of control and direction over your work.

How to use the Time Management Matrix

Again you may need some clarity about what is important and urgent etc., in your own business.

After this has been established you can decide whether you use the matrix at the beginning of a week, or every day to decide on your work priorities.

Certainly it is vital to mentally run through the matrix every time a new task appears on your desk. Each task must be judged on its importance and urgency, compared with other tasks you are dealing with.

Then you can assign it to its most appropriate place in your list of priorities.

Sue Heward

Learning and Development Consultant

After work experience in the public sector, including a local authority, as a trainer and as a manager of a training function, Sue has  worked as a personal skills and management training consultant since 1986.

Sue has worked successfully with public and private organisations, with groups from 4 to 40 in size.

While working as a sole trader, with her own clients Sue has also worked as an associate consultant for consultancies such as The Industrial Society

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