Time for Reflection on Time

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By Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC  

Now we have arrived at a place where we can look deeper into the choices we make regarding how we spend our time.  Has this ever happened to you?  It’s the end of the day and your spouse comes home and says, “How was your day?”  After the pleasantries are exchanged your spouse says, “So what did you do today?”  It is then you realize that yet another day has gone by you when you didn’t get to do “x, y, and z” that you had promised yourself you would.  You vow to do better next time.

Steven Covey, the author of several influential books on effective living, shows how we devote much of our time in ways that do not serve us best.  In a simple yet clear graph, he enables us to visually see how we devote much of our time.  I invite you to take a little time out of your day to do some self-reflection and explore the conundrum we call Time Management.



Take a look at the Chart.  If you are like most people, you usually spend time doing the things in Quadrant I (stuff that’s both Important and Urgent like tending to deadlines and crises), Quadrant III (Things that are Urgent but not Important, like email and texts), and Quadrant IV (Both Not Urgent and Not Important, like visiting Facebook). Many people almost never get to Quadrant III (Not Urgent, but Important, like planning for the future).


Covey suggests that where we should be spending our time is truly in Quadrant II, where things may not be Urgent, but they are Important.  These are the things that help us both move forward in our lives and enjoy and enrich our lives (things like planning for future events, enjoying the zoo with your family).  Most often, however, most people tend to focus on Quadrant III where things are Urgent but Not Important (perhaps the newest emails to your inbox or the upcoming meeting).

Here is an exercise he recommends to help you understand and manage the choices you make in how you spend your time.

  1. Get 20 or 30 notecards. On each card, write down one thing on your mind that you should do, want to do, have to do, wish you did, hope you get to do… you get the idea. Include everything, no matter how large or small. Keep writing cards until you can no longer think of anything.  (Don’t worry; you can add more cards later).
  2. Once you have written out as many cards as you can, separate the cards into two piles: Urgent – things that have to be done now, and Not Urgent – things that can wait (even if you don’t want them to).  You can refer to the chart to help you with this process.
  3. Now go through each of these piles a second time, this time separating the cards into piles of Important and Not Important. Sometimes, this can take some thought and your decision is purely subjective. Is the trip to the zoo important?  The four resulting stacks correlate with the Covey Quadrants: Important/Urgent, Important/Not Urgent, Unimportant/Urgent, Unimportant/Not Urgent.
  4. For now, put a rubber band around the stacks that are Unimportant/Urgent and Unimportant/Not Urgent and put them aside for review at a later date. (Side note: It will be interesting to take these out in a month or two and review which ones you want to rip up and which you will want to incorporate into your present life.)
  5. Now the fun begins.  Make a commitment to yourself to really examine the cards in Quadrant II – the items that are Important and Not Urgent.  My experience shows that these items contain the gems of your life.  The things that, when done, help you to live a calmer, more fulfilling life.

Many people find that once they have completed this exercise they have a clearer vision of their priorities in life.  However, that is often not the end of the process. It is truly just the beginning.  The true magic is in making the things happen that we find important but are not pressed or required to do.  Examples might be developing new hobbies, enhancing your professional education, building on friendships, spending time with loved ones, writing a book, and getting your retirement finances in order.

Now that you have taken the time to reflect on how you can spend your time, you have some choices to make.  You have opened the door to your true desires, now it’s up to you do decide to make these things happen.  Sometimes, and for some goals (perhaps spending more time with family or reorganizing your closets), knowing what you want to accomplish is enough to get you started.  Other goals, like creating a calmer home or expanding your business might need more thought, planning, or support to get you to the finish line.  Enlist a friend, a family member, or perhaps the services of a professional Coach to keep you moving forward.  Then you can know that wonderful, calm, satisfied feeling at the end of each day that you spent your time well.

Bonus Tips:

  1. Schedule a meeting with yourself once a month to look at the bigger picture of your to do lists.  Choose a long-range item, one that never gets off the list, and plan to do it.  Feels great to get it done!
  2. Find a coaching partner.  Saying your goals out loud and being accountable to someone else greatly increases your chances of success!!


Cindy Goldrich


Written by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC © 2013 PTS Coaching. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced or electronically distributed as long as attribution to PTS Coaching is maintained.   Original post: Time Management – It’s a Family Affair! 


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