Recently, I received a question on Quora on how can time management & productivity reduce stress. Stress is the result of multiple factors, but being stressed is in many situations the result of wishing to accomplish many activities with tight deadlines.
In his book „First Things First” – Stephen Covey presents an instrument called Time management matrix which is attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower (also known as Eisenhower Decision Matrix). This is a simple instrument which I will present in this article.
The matrix has 4 quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Important and urgent: here we can find activities that are related to our main professional activity which must be finished as soon as possible. These activities are important for our general goals.
Quadrant 2: Important and non-urgent: although in this category we can find tasks that are correlated with our goals, there isn’t a sense of urgency in accomplishing them, so in many cases, they are postponed for the next day.
Quadrant 3: Unimportant and urgent: these are activities that you should delegate. In most of the cases, another person is telling us that these activities are “urgent” (“I need to solve something urgent, could you help me?”). Does this sound familiar? Remember that “urgent” for another person, is not “urgent” for you. If you choose to help the other person, you will end up with more tasks from quadrant 1 (important and urgent).
Quadrant 4: Unimportant and non-urgent: these are the activities that we shouldn’t focus too much on, as they are time consuming and uncorrelated with our long-term goals.
How can a stressful situation appear because of a weak productivity?
Imagine that you focus each day on activities in quadrant 1. Each day, you are struggling to find time and finish your activities near the deadline. This brings you more and more stress.
If you want to increase your productivity, you should increase the activities done in Quadrant 2 (Important and non-urgent). For instance: if you know that you should finish a presentation for next week, you could split the work into daily small tasks, in order to finish on time.