Are you facing a measure of insanity in trying to start your small business? I certainly understand the feelings. With a constant bombardment of emails, texts, calls, tasks, it can be nearly impossible to tackle the key tasks in life. Most people live in a state where the urgent is colliding with the important at all times. It becomes hard to decide whether to put out the fire in the kitchen, console the screaming baby (if you’re working from home), settle issues with your spouse, all while trying to gather information for an important deal. Arriving at home, we end up so exhausted that we have nothing to give, so we end up wasting our time on things that do not get us anywhere closer to our goals. A barrage of emails and calls gives way to a steady stream of channel surfing. Our minds have been racing at 60 miles per hour all day, so we hop on our phones and scroll through our facebook timelines at the same rapid velocity. (Facebook has actually measured this.) The day long bombardment makes a rush of stimuli feel totally normal leading to an evening of emptiness. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
This weekend, I learned the importance of the Steven Covey priority matrix, which he details in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. The matrix has 4 quadrants as seen below:
You might think quadrant 1, the urgent/important box, would be the most important. No matter what your occupation, these types of tasks are unavoidable. But living here constantly is bad for your stress. It leads to burnout and exhaustion, making it nearly impossible to prioritize and stay focussed.
Quadrant 2 is the important but not urgent box. These are the things where are most important and deepest work happens. Has it been a while since you’ve worked on your book? Are you still putting off writing that new song? Has it been years since you had time to work out or pray? These are the projects and habits that would lead to the most meaning in our lives.
Quadrant 3 is where most of us get stuck. It’s the trivial things that keep getting in the way of productivity. You could spend an entire day checking email, but not be any closer to your goals. You could make sure your texts are all answered, but not close a single sale. Having an assistant and using do not disturb on your devices can massively reduce these hindrances to productivity.
Quadrant 4 is the place we need to stay away from. Everyone needs a dose of fun once in a while, but there is a difference between meaningful, regenerating recreation and turning your brain into mush. Avoid this lifeless box as much as possible.
The moral of the story? Schedule! Delegate! This is the only way to find the peace and the freedom that you need to do your deepest and most important work. Do the things that only you can do, and create work for others who need the jobs by hiring them. This really is the path to productivity and fulfillment.