Important, not urgent

In over 25 years of work, I have ‘learned’ about time management on many occasions, but still find myself needing to be reminded of the fundamentals and shed the bad habits that have crept back in to my working methods.
I was lucky enough on Friday to attend a Strategic Management workshop run by Sandler Training in Birmingham titled “Managing Your Time Effectively”. Rather than focusing on techniques for diary management, making meetings run to time etc. it took a ‘bigger picture’ view of how we actually divide up our time in our role as business leaders.
Using the Urgent / Important model, and Stephen Covey’s habit of “First things first” we were introduced to four boxes:
Necessity – things that are both important and urgent e.g. crises, deadline-driven projects and last-minute preparations.
Quality and personal leadership – important, but not urgent e.g. preparation and planning, relationship building
Deception – urgent but not important e.g. interruptions, some meetings, popuar activities, “pressing” matters
Waste – Not important or urgent e.g. trivia, junk mail, ‘escape’
While activities in the first box cannot be ignored, we can trap ourselves into spending too much time here and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – eventually everything important will become urgent and end up in this box.
The third and fourth boxes represent a major opportunity – if we delegate work in box 3 and eliminate as much as possible in box 4, we can free up time to focus on the second box. This is the area that makes the real difference in the long term – time spent in box 2 moves us closer to our goals and also reduces the number of activities that drift into the first box which gives us even more time to focus on box 2 and so on …
What does this mean for marketing? A couple of thoughts struck me. Firstly, how is our marketing effort divided between these boxes? How much waste, deception and necessity as opposed to quality and leadership? Are we planning and preparing thoroughly or just ‘putting out fires’?
Secondly, within the wider business context, where does marketing fit? Which box would SME business owners and directors put marketing in? I would argue that it should be a box 2 activity – it is rarely urgent and important, but should always be important; however, I suspect there are plenty of business owners who currently see it differently.
Time to go,