This week I’m going to explore some productivity tips and tricks. Productivity is a topic I’m very passionate about probably because I recognize how much much there is that I want to do and how many things there are to distract me from doing what I really want to do. Left to myself, I’ll fail miserably or end up working much harder than I need to.

About fifteen years ago, I was introduced to an idea that would later have huge implications for me. It’s actually a simple chart/matrix the helps you understand how to best spend your time. Although I’ve know this idea for years, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve been more intentional by planning my day according to this chart.

The chart/matrix is the “Time Management Matrix” popularized by Stephen Covey in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective people. Here’s the chart:


Essentially, you have four quadrants where every task/event/activity comes from.

You have Urgent and Non-Urgent columns as well as Emergency and Non-Emergency columns. Let’s look at all four individual quadrants.

  1. Quadrant One is your Urgent/Important tasks. They’re things you have to do. If you don’t, everything will fall apart. The problem is that these things are generally not strategic. They’re fires, but they’re fires you have to put out because they’re really important. In ministry, these things are important phone calls/emails, maybe impromptu meetings called by your manager or the crisis that impacts families in your ministry. These things are going to happen and you rarely know when. They’re going to happen, so it’s best to plan for them. Know that you’re going to have to spend time in quadrant one, so leave room in your schedule for these emergencies.
  2. Quadrant Three is your Urgent/Not Important tasks. Usually, this is someone else’s emergency. These are many of your emails and phone calls. There’s an urgency because our voicemail and inbox feels a little out of control and we’re tempted to put out these fires because we don’t like fires. They’re the distractions of a busy office or notifications constantly going off on your phone. It’s important to remember… these tasks are not important. If there’s something you are not going to get done today, it should be something from this quadrant.
  3. Quadrant Four is your Not Urgent/Not Important tasks. Here are some examples: facebook, instagram, many of your emails, re-organizing your desk. It’s inevitable that you’ll spend time here, but spend time here on purpose. You’ll find your most productive work happening when you take breaks. Five to fifteen minutes in quadrant four make excellent breaks. When limited times Quadrant Four happens on purpose, that’s wonderful,but if you find yourself getting sucked into 45 minutes on facebook after lunch – something is broken.
  4. Quadrant Two is the best quadrant. It’s the Not Urgent/Important tasks. These are the most strategic tasks you can accomplish in a day. This might be the two hours you spend re-evaluating and redesigning your volunteer on boarding process that will address how long your volunteers serve. It’s those tasks you’ve been wanting to do for months, the tasks you believe will make a big impact on your ministry – but you just never seem to have the time. They’re not fires. It’s the tasks you just wish you had more time for.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about eating frogs for breakfast every morning. This is simply the process of setting aside your best hours every morning to focus on Quadrant Two.

Think about your typical day. What percentage of your time are you spending in each quadrant? What are ways that you can spend more time in Quadrant Two? What are ways that you can delegate or stop doing the items in Quadrant Three? How can you become more purposeful about the items in Quadrant Four, so they don’t take away from what really matters?