If it’s difficult for you to make time for important things, for example, budgeting and tracking, consider trying this exercise. It comes from Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a must-read).
Put First Things First
This exercise will help you learn how to prioritize your activities. First, make a box with 4 quadrants, labeled “important” across the top and “urgent” on the left side. Each quadrant represents a combination of how important something is and how urgent it is.
Following are some examples Covey gives of how someone might categorize their activities:
- presenting problems
- deadline-driven projects
Quadrant 2: Not Urgent and Important
- relationship building
- recognizing new opportunities
Quadrant 3: Urgent and Not Important
- interruptions, some calls
- some mail, some reports
- some meetings
- proximate, pressing matters
Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important
- trivia, busy work
- some mail, some phone calls
- time wasters
- pleasant activities
Apparently, most people spend about 90% of their time in Quadrant 1, addressing things that are important and urgent. Unfortunately, it leads to a life of reacting instead of being proactive. For example, instead of planning out your projects, you’ve got to cram on that presentation because it’s due tomorrow. Can you relate? I can.
The second most “popular” Quadrant is #3. It really seems like we could spend our whole lives doing Quadrants 1 and 3 stuff—probably because of the sense of urgency they carry.
We should actually be spending most of our time in Quadrant 2, working on things that are important but not urgent. Because they are not urgent, though, it’s easy to let them slide. But doing those things will allow more proactivity and help reduce the number of crises and problems to contend with in the future.
Regarding Quadrant 4, did anyone else read that list and feel like they were busted for wasting time? It brought to my mind the dumb games I play on my smart phone. The good news is that I can choose to use the same device to work on some of the Quadrant 2 activities as well.
Try It & Apply It
It’s a matter of choosing what’s important and keeping your focus on those things. Then make sure to adjust your schedule to make time for those important things. Go ahead and list out your activities so you can choose how you want to spend your time.
So, where in your schedule can you put your Weekly Review? It’s a super-important activity for personal finances because that’s when you check your spending and adjust the budget if needed. Doing a Weekly Review is being proactive in your finances. It certainly beats dealing with a crisis at the end of the month when you discover you’ve overspent… again. I know that’s not a fun place to be.