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See how better understanding Stephen Covey's 4 quadrants can help you get more done in your day-to-day.


As you’re driving home from work, do you ever think about your day and wonder where did the time go, and why you weren’t able to get anything done on your to-do list? With constant interruptions, we rarely meet deadlines we put in place for ourselves.

As a facility manager, you’ve likely come to accept that you can’t control the interruptions that hit you before you even finish pouring your first cup of coffee. While you may not be able to control them, in many instances, you can help minimize them and manage how you respond.

I recently read a gem titled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, in which he lays out several fundamental habits to becoming – you guessed it – a “highly effective” contributor.

Covey discusses a principal coined the “Time Management Grid,” in which he breaks down the things we spend our time on into four quadrants. By placing every task into one of these four buckets, you’ll be able to control your day, instead of letting it control you.

In a recent article in the Church Executive Magazine, I discussed the APPEM (Assess, Prioritize, Plan, Execute, Maintain) model to avoid falling into the normalization of deviance. However, without a plan for managing day-to-day distractions, the APPEM model is doomed to fail in the execution stage.

So, put your thinking cap on, and let’s look at Covey’s four quadrants:

4-quadrants-1.PNG


Let’s break down what appears to be colorful boxes with pretty much the same words in each.

Quadrant 1: Urgent & Important

These are things that cannot wait. They must be done right now. If these are not handled immediately, it will cause physical or monetary damage, or halt activities taking place in the facility. Think a broken pipe, a leaking roof or an overflowing toilet.

Quadrant 2: Important, not Urgent

This is your sweet spot, and where you want to spend most of your time. These are things that are scheduled and planned for. They need to be done, and if postponed for an extended period, will become a financial burden. This could be anything that will help extend the life of your facility, or preserve its cosmetic appearance. Think preventive maintenance. These can also be room set-ups for tonight’s 7 p.m. Bible study, weekly staff meeting, safety inspections, etc.

Covey’s study concludes this is the most under-used quadrant, as most people find themselves in quadrant 1 and 3. With more strategic planning, you can spend more time in this area. This will minimize chaos and help you become more proactive and efficient.

Quadrant 3: Urgent, not Important

These are unimportant tasks that become an emergency for someone else because they didn’t plan ahead. This is a “we need the fellowship hall set up for a ladies brunch that starts in an hour and I’m just now telling you about it.” These are things that should be minimized, if not eliminated entirely. As a facility manager, this requires some tough love and setting expectations for how things get communicated to you, and the timeline of when things will be completed.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent & not Important

These are unproductive activities that give you a mental break from your work. This can include some types of emails, water cooler talk, surfing the web or really anything that you wouldn’t do if your boss was watching you.

Okay, So What Do I Do About It?

How do we virtually eliminate quadrant 4, and minimize activities in quadrant 3 so they fall into quadrant 2?

Track your and your team’s work. Yes, it can seem tedious and inconvenient, but there are many reasons it’s important to know how you’re spending your time. It can help you understand how you’re doing in these four quadrants, and the changes that need to be made to help you improve. You might find that you need to hire more staff or invest more in contractors to help you get the job done. Just have the data ready to back up your case for more help. Please note this is NOT meant to micromanage employees.

Manage expectations. If you’re able to stay on top of our PMs but find you’re still spending a lot of time on Quadrant 3 tasks, then most of it is probably coming from your “customers” or staff who are sending requests. As a facility manager you need to change the mentality that non-emergency work will be handled immediately. You must set the expectation of when they should expect the work to be done, and help them understand you’re not waiting at their beck and call. It’s not their fault they don’t understand everything your job entails, they just need to be informed. Depending on your culture, this messaging will likely need to come from leadership. Again, for leadership to understand why you need their support, be prepared to show them HOW you’re spending your time, so they can understand WHY this will help you and your team contribute at an even higher level.

Make it a practice to mentally dump each task into one of these four buckets until it becomes a habit. After all, when we’re serving our church, we’re serving God and His Kingdom, and we want to give Him 100%.

Think this sounds impossible? Download the success story by Northridge Church to learn how they were able to minimize hallway muggings, track where they spend their time and become more proactive.

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