Beyond time management: Important, urgent, and the people you interact with

Many people subscribe to the Stephen Covey approach to time management. Covey proposes that you use a quadrant system – the axes being important/not important and urgent/not urgent – in order to determine how to prioritize.  Michael Hyatt, one of my favorite bloggers, recently posted about this methodology and how it has become a routine part of his life.

One downfall to the approach that I’ve witnessed is that some people tend to use it to an extreme. These people tend to see trivial interactions with others as either not important, or both not important and not urgent. They categorize requests from others, introductions, and follow-ups as quadrant 3 and 4. They use these classifications as an excuse for being very unresponsive and delaying communication. They leave people feeling as though they, not the communication, was deemed “not important.” This is no way to treat people.

Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely doubt Michael applies the methodology this way.  In fact, I know he doesn’t since I’ve seen him respond to “unimportant” tweets, blogs, and other social media within minutes and hours.

Lately, I have realized that my responsiveness has taken a hit.  My email inbox, which I used to be able to manage down to 0 unread messages every night, has stacked up over the past month to the point where I do not believe I will ever be able to recover. Knowing that much of my email is quadrant 3 and quadrant 4, I have made an important change and handed over the keys to my inbox. From here forward, my assistant, Victoria, will assist me in digesting my email so that I can use more of my time to respond.

My advice is simple: learn to use a methodology like Covey’s, but don’t forget the importance of people. Think about the consequences of your actions and find creative ways to balance time management techniques with the dignity of the people you interact with. Relationships are important, even if the task at hand that involves the person is not. Use creativity to find ways to clear time, delegate what can be delegated, and respond effectively to individuals.

What other time management techniques have you used? How have you applied them in your life to ensure that you respect all individuals you interact with?