Time management is a high wire act, one that most, if not all, entrepreneurs are familiar with.

On one side of the high wire, you have all the things that you need to get done right now, today, tomorrow, this week, this month or even this year.

And on the other side of the wire, you have everything that you need to accomplish to reach your long-term goals in business and in life. Focusing too much on the side with your ‘present’ to-dos (a common occurrence with business owners) can be problematic as all of your small daily, weekly, and even monthly or quarterly tasks rarely add up to the big picture goals.

So, to successfully cross the high wire you need to learn how to manage and balance what Stephen Covey coined the clock of scheduling as well as the compass of purpose and values.

Let’s watch this video of Covey’s “Big Rocks” exercise for a visual example.

There is not a doubt in my mind that you can relate to what Elizabeth went through as she was trying to cram all of those big rocks into a bucket filled with tiny pebbles. While the rocks and the pebbles represent different things for different people, the steps to manage them are the same.

1. Organize your tasks and responsibilities by importance and urgency

Covey also advises people to categorize their tasks and responsibilities according to his matrix of four quadrants, which ranks activities based on their level of importance and urgency.

In the top left quadrant, we have high importance, high urgency tasks, while in the bottom right we have those of low importance and low urgency.

This matrix helps people prioritize their ‘big rocks’ and strike a balance between tasks that must be done right now (top left), responsibilities that should be focused on over longer periods of time (top right), and then all of those ‘little pebbles’ that can fit into the nooks and crannies of our schedules (bottom right).

Anything that fits into the bottom left quadrant is to be avoided - you do not want to be interrupted with unimportant or irrelevant tasks!

2. Use the Skill Fun Box to help you decide what to delegate

Moving on from Covey’s approach to time management, I’d like to layout a similar method which I encourage everyone to do. In this method, we still have a four-quadrant matrix, but this time we’ll call it a ‘Skill Fun Box’ and categorize our time based on the level of skill it takes compared to the level of interest, enjoyment, or fun it produces (for business tasks think of fun in terms of revenue generated).

  • High skill tasks: those not everyone can do - they require your specific set of skills
  • Low skill tasks: those that could easily be delegated to someone without the need for much (or any) specific training
  • High fun tasks: those tasks that you not only enjoy doing but also that produce revenue for your business
  • Low fun tasks: those that give you a bad gut feeling when you take them on, or those that do not directly generate revenue for your business

To complete your own Skill Fun Box you need to begin with auditing how you spend your time for a full week. At the end of each block of 15 minutes during the week write down what you spent that time doing. This experience can be a bit painful - and not just because it can get tedious to write down everything that you do in a day based on 15-minute increments!

I find that when my clients perform this time audit exercise they often realize that they are not as productive as they think they are. Once you have performed your time audit, every single item that you wrote down needs to be placed into the Skill Fun Box. Do not be afraid to categorize tasks as low skill, low fun.

3. Block your time with a default diary

Now that your Skill Fun Box is complete, it’s time to prioritize and build out what I call a Default Diary in which your time is blocked out according to tasks. Your goal is to focus as much of your time as possible on things that fall into the high skill, high fun category.

At first, your Default Diary might need to include more of the smaller activities that lead to the creation of high revenue opportunities (emailing, networking, prospecting, etc.), but as you bring in more revenue you will have more and more ability to outsource and delegate those smaller tasks, making room for more revenue-generating work.

While your Default Diary changes over time as your business grows, what remains important is that you prioritize your revenue-generating (high skill, high fun) tasks as much as possible, otherwise those ‘little pebbles’ from Stephen Covey’s example will take over.

If you’d like some help managing your time, please reach out to me as I’ve helped many business owners gain control over their calendars. If you have one or two quick questions, please book a free 15-minute meeting with me here. For more in-depth assistance I would be happy to meet with you in one of my one-time fee single coaching sessions. Learn more about single-session coaching and book your time slot here.