The 5 Choices shows us that extraordinary productivity isn’t actually about working harder; it’s about working better. By learning how to streamline your decision-making process, focus on important work and manage your energy, you’ll see an enormous difference in your level of productivity and work quality.
Like most of us, you probably spend half your day at work checking email. Well, as you surely know, such distractions take a major toll on your productivity.
To avoid distraction, organize your tasks using a time matrix, a productivity tool consisting of four quadrants, each accounting for a different portion of your time.
Q1 includes important, urgent work. For example, this is the time you spend handling emergencies or last-minute requests.
Q2 consists of time spent working on important tasks that aren’t urgent: that report for an important strategy meeting next week, for example.
Q3 time is for work that’s urgent but not important; e.g., constantly checking your email.
And finally, Q4 is the time you waste on pointless things, like playing games on your phone or checking Facebook.
All in all, you should spend most of your time in Q2. After all, although you may feel productive when you’re in Q1 and Q3 – you’re handling urgent business! – that’s not actually the case. Because we too often mistake the urgent for the vital, rarely leading to top-notch work. (For proof, just consider the misspelled, hastily constructed emails you’ve surely sent out in your life.)
On the other hand, we do our best work in Q2. It’s where we can focus and think, instead of simply reacting to whatever comes our way.
So, in order to stay in this quadrant, use the Pause-Clarify-Decide method to determine rationally whether the task is important.
For instance, before opening a new email, pause for a moment and think: Who is this email from? What’s the subject? Will this need immediate action? If the answer to the last question is “no,” go concentrate on something else instead.