Too busy to peel an orange? So much to do, where to start?

I work with people who need a bit of a helping hand to rediscover what makes them shine, be energised and succeed. This post gives you a couple of models to help you become focused on your priorities when it feels like you've got too many plates spinning

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We all feel overwhelmed from time- time. Busyness seems to surround us. Did you know that sales of grated cheese and pre-cooked hard-boiled eggs are up, yet sales of oranges are down 30 per cent. Why? Perhaps because we are just too busy to peel oranges.

There are various ways that different people use to help them get back in control and become clearer on what is important and then use their time wisely to get things done.

Some folk find it helpful to write absolutely everything down and then try to cross out the less important things to make the list more manageable.The problem with this approach is that things aren't usually prioritised or linked to your longer term goals and keeping the list up to date can become a life purpose in itself

Others have their own, often quite complicated, colour coding systems which they use with their lists, sometimes linked to their diaries with sophisticated alerts and reminders. The thing I find with this approach is that it encourages me to procrastinate and spend time setting up pretty systems and doesn't really help me sort out the wood from the tress

Lots of people have heard of the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you prioritise your tasks based upon their urgency and importance. It also allows you to identify tasks that you should either get someone else to do or leave undone.

This Eisenhower matrix results in four quadrants with various strategies. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, further popularised Eisenhower's concept of this time management matrix by supporting Eisenhower's use of four quadrants to determine the urgency of your tasks.

Here is how the four quadrants work:

Quadrant 1: Do First

Quadrant 1 contains tasks that are both urgent and important. These are "do first" tasks because they are critical for your life or career in some way and need to be finished right away. You want to get these tasks done as soon as possible.These are the tasks that need to be done in order to avoid negative consequences. It is important to be able to manage the tasks that are in quadrant 1.

Quadrant 2 : Decide When

The tasks in quadrant 2 are important but not urgent, tasks that link to your longer term goals and where it's good to invest most of your time. What are some examples of these tasks? Well, exercising is important to your health, but you can decide when that can be done. It is also important to spend time with your family, but again, that can be aligned with your schedule. 

Everyone has different goals and objectives, so just because something falls into quadrant 2 for you, it may not for others. Also, just because these tasks are not urgent does not mean that they are not important. People often associate urgent matters with being important, which is not always true. 

Quadrant 3 : Delegate it

Do you ever feel that you put too much importance on a task that in hindsight was not very important? Or think something has to be done right away, and it actually doesn't? This common mistake often occurs when someone asks you to do something that does not directly benefit you or get you closer to achieving your goals. For quadrant 3 tasks, it is important to learn and remember how to get others to do  certain things.When you think something is urgent but it actually is not, it is usually an outside source of distraction. This may include constantly checking your email or phone, or responding to people as soon as they try to contact you. You may think it is urgent at the moment, so you stop what you are doing to tend to the matter. But in reality, it could wait.

Quadrant 4: Delete It

You want to avoid quadrant 4 tasks. These tasks are usually a waste of your time. If you are able to identify and eliminate all of your quadrant 4 tasks, you will free up some much-needed time to invest in your quadrant 2 tasks.

Does that mean nothing in quadrant 4 should be a part of your life? No. Having a balance between your professional and personal life is important, and downtime helps you regain your energy. The challenge is to spend most of your time in quadrant 2, and just enough time in quadrant 4 to get by.

Priority Matrix 

In my coaching work with individuals and teams I've taken some of the thinking behind the Eisenhower Matrix and combined it with other coaching tools to produce a Priority Matrix Toolkit to help folk become clearer on priorities and how they use their time. People find it really helpful so I've posted the toolkit below and hope it helps you.

Please let me know if you find this useful. 


A bit about me

As a former Chief Executive, I now work as an independent coach and mentor. I love my work as a coach and get great satisfaction and joy from watching my clients grow and succeed

My clients often describe their work with me as challenging, energising, thought provoking and practical. Take a look at my Linked In page to get a feel for how client's see their experience of investing in coaching

Outside of my coaching work, I paint a bit, sew bright. flowery fabric together to make quilts, help run a community Arts Festival and support my husband's studio glass business

Please get in touch if I can ever be of any help.

Sandra Whiles

Director, Sandra Whiles Coaching Ltd

I work with people who need a bit of a helping hand to rediscover what makes them shine, be energised and succeed. I love my work as a coach, helping people, organisations, groups, teams and partnerships succeed and supporting small businesses to transform their ideas into reality. All of my work is grounded in a coaching approach and builds on my experience and success in shaping and leading individuals, teams, organisations and partnerships over many years. Before setting up my business in 2016, I worked for 35 years in the public sector. My last job was as Chief Executive for Blaby District Council in Leicestershire, described as "a great council" by the LGA in 2015 with very high levels of public satisfaction and staff engagement. Having trained with Barefoot Coaching Ltd, I am a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation, hold a postgraduate certificate in coaching from the University of Chester, have done specialist training in Team Coaching and am a qualified NLP Practitioner. Sustainability is very important to me, so my work is designed and delivered in ways that give clients tools and approaches to use to maintain and build on their successes after their work with me is completed.