How are you managing your use of time? Do you find that the Urgent is constantly demanding your attention ahead of the Important? For many people, their use of Time has become the thing that determines their Career Opportunities and creates issues around their Wellbeing. Why do I say this?

How often in the last few weeks, have you said to someone, ‘I’m really busy’ or ‘I’m too busy to do that’? And how often have you changed plans and rearranged schedules because something urgent has come up? You are the only one who can make judgement calls about what needs to get done. But what is your framework for making these calls? And does this framework place enough weight and importance on activities that will enable you to grow in your career and perform at your best?

Over the last couple of months, I have been listening out to see how often the phrase ‘I am really busy’ is being used. It’s one of the most common statements people use when describing their regular working week. And it’s also the phrase most often used by clients when they can’t make appointments or are unable to complete the thinking and the activities I ask them to do in between sessions.

I’m not making any kind of judgement call about this, but I have been wondering why this is so.

‘Time’ itself, the use of time, or lack of time are often becoming the reasons why people are not getting around to the important things in their lives. There are a variety of reasons why this might be happening:

  • The general level of busyness experienced by some has reached epidemic proportions.
  • People are finding it hard to manage their time effectively.
  • The working environment is becoming more complex and demanding.

Operating from any of these scenarios can very easily have an impact on your sense of wellbeing. You might not be showing it outwardly, but your mind can become a bit like the feet of a duck paddling furiously under the surface of the water while you appear calm to all who see you.

Getting locked into patterns of thinking and behaviour that are driven primarily by urgent activity rather than important activity will not allow you to play at your best in the workplace. And it will prevent you from moving your attention to the important work of thinking strategically about yourself and where you are going in your career.

Moving into a more positive headspace where you are more in charge may well be one of the most important career decisions you will make. Because to make the best decisions about managing and developing a career, you will need to prioritise time so you can think well.


What is Important and What is Urgent?

This is THE number one question to answer in order to use time more effectively. Steven Covey has given us a useful model to explain what we define as ‘Important’ and ‘Not Important’, and whether we consider things to be ‘Urgent’ and ‘Not Urgent’. The following 4 Quadrant model from the bestselling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ is a great starting point for thinking about your use of time.

Covey tells us that we prioritise activities and how important they are into one of four categories. (See the diagram below). We then determine how we use our time in relation to these. Each person will probably classify their activities slightly differently, but overall, this tends to be the pattern for most.

The top two quadrants are particularly important because they are the ones we’re most often challenged by. In quadrant 2 , the Important but Not Urgent category, often includes wellness activities, relationship development, and career thinking.

When Quadrant 1 activities start to take more space and time than they should, the lines between Quadrants 1 and 2 can get blurred, and Quadrant 2 activities get neglected. This can be as a result of outside influences, but essentially at some point we buy-in to the demands.   Over-attention to Quadrant 1 activities can lead to challenges in the balance between work and home, increased stress levels and burnout. You can also lose sight of opportunities to work on things that will allow you to grow and to be well and happy. This includes taking the time needed to do the important work of thinking about how you will manage and plan your career.

Take a few moments to think about the things you consider to be ‘Important’ and ‘Not Important’, and whether they are ‘Urgent’ or ‘Not Urgent’.  

Questions to Guide Your Thinking:

  • What makes something important or not important for you in your working week?
  • Who decides which quadrant things go in for you?
  • Where are the lines between quadrants getting blurred for you?
  • Do you have clear boundaries around where work stops and where personal life begins?
  • Who decides when these get compromised and how they get compromised?
  • What one thing can you do today to establish clearer boundaries and give yourself time to attend to more of the things that are important to you?

So What?

Learning to manage the competing demands of Urgent and Not Urgent, and Important and Not Important activities can be life changing and have a significant impact on your ability to make good career decisions. Establishing better clarity around your boundaries can deliver some powerful outcomes for you. It can lead to improvements in your wellbeing and greater career satisfaction.

Janet Tuck

Janet Tuck

Career Management Specialist

M: +64 21 526 387

If Career Development is in your ‘Important’ category and you want help to get started, or continue the process, phone or email Janet to book an appointment.

Phone me now

Janet – 021 526 387


Watch out for the next blog where I will continue exploring ways in which you can use Time more effectively to achieve better career and life outcomes for yourself.

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