Hundreds of years ago Shakespeare told us “there is nothing new under the sun”. I was reminded of that while attending the Allegra Network convention in Orlando. One of the educational sessions I attended dealt with effective time management—a hot topic these days.
As the enthusiastic presenter from Franklin Covey opened with the premise that everyone feels pressured to do more and more work with fewer and fewer resources, the heads in the room began to bob. Everyone could relate. Just an aside here, but I particularly enjoyed her observation that what triggers our “fight or flight” instinct these days is not the saber-toothed tiger, but the cyber-toothed tiger. I just love a clever turn of phrase!
But I digress. She offered up a series of examples of the interuptions that distract us from what is really important. Email seems to be a universal pain point. It is almost never critical, yet we feel compelled to respond to it immediately; often at the expense of activities that would allow us to make much better use of our time.
About halfway through the presentation, she explained that there are four ways to categorize our activities. If we followed the Franklin Covey formula and used it regularly, she assured us we would be able to accomplish high-value tasks, avoid distraction by the pop-up nuisances, and even have time to reclaim our personal lives. But as she started outlining the categories, I had the sensation of falling through a time vortex. I’d heard it all before (about 20 years before) from Tom Crouser.
Tom used to present a seminar—and he wrote a couple of QP columns—about organizing your desk using three boxes. (This was years before everything went digital.) He said you should label the boxes: “Urgent and Important”, “Important, But Not Urgent”, and “Not Urgent and Not Important”. He said you should work through the first box immediately. Work through the second box after the first one was complete, and toss out the third box.
The Franklin Covey method adds a category that is designed to deliver “extrordinary productivity”. If you really want to know the details you could pony up $149 to take the course online. It’s pretty slick. Or you could get out three boxes (or create three file folders on your desktop) and start sorting.
Just to set the record straight, Tom never claimed that this sorting strategy was an original idea. Who knows how old it is? Maybe at some point, Will Shakespeare looked at the clutter on his desk and went in search of three boxes.