Farm Progress

Best ways to manage your time: Part one of two

Use this system to prioritize tasks in relation to their importance and urgency.

Tim Schaefer, Founder

October 4, 2016

3 Min Read

Do you feel like you run from one emergency to another? Does your To Do list get shoved aside as your day suddenly fills up with tasks? Do you wonder where your time disappears to, or do you end your day feeling like you didn’t really didn’t accomplish anything?  Have you ever watched with envy as your competitor moves calmly through their day?

Why do some people get so much accomplished while others seem to run around putting out fires? If you find yourself with too many emergencies and not enough time to deal with them, learn from Stephen Covey and his time matrix.


Everything you do is not as equally important to your success, and prioritizing all tasks is at the heart of his simple system. Covey’s system makes use of four different quadrants that allow you to prioritize tasks in relation to their importance and urgency to YOU as a leader.

This helps you to decide whether you need to address a task immediately, postpone it, delegate it, or eliminate it altogether.

Only after getting unimportant tasks off your plate can you look at the really important things that will propel your business forward, and focus on things that mesh with your talents, interests, and core duties as a CEO and leader.

Currently you may be doing important things that other people in your business are capable of doing. These tasks, while essential, take you away from your main priorities of leadership.  

Do what matters most

Business management experts like Covey long ago realized that managing time is a definging factor to business success, so he created a time matrix. The matrix visually shows what tasks truly need your attention and will move your company forward. It isn't so much a system of 'start doing' but rather a system of creating a  'stop doing' list.

As you can see from the graphic with this blog, the time management matrix is separated into four quadrants that are organized by importance and urgency. Important responsibilities contribute to your success and the success of your business. Urgent responsibilities need your immediate attention. These activities are often tied to daily operations.

Best ways to manage your time: Part one of two

The Stephen Covey time matrix is built around four quadrants that are organized by importance and urgency.

Divide your tasks into quadrants

Quadrant 1 – Important deadlines with high urgency. These need your immediate attention and cannot be delayed.
-Projects with deadlines
-Last minute changes and preparation

Quadrant 2 – Long term planning and strategy.
-Strategic Planning
-Training, Developing and Mentoring
-Researching new methods of business and production
-Finance and records analysis
-Building key relationships with people who can help your business: landlords, bankers, accountants, etc.
-Continuing education
-Peer Advisory Groups

Quadrant 3 – Distractions that are urgent but not very important. These activities may even be enjoyable but don’t move you any closer to your goals.
-Sitting on boards that don't bring value to your business
-Dealing with minor details your team could handle without your input
-Running errands, data entry, or other low level tasks better left to employees

Quadrant 4 – Activities with little to no value to your long or short term success.
-Time wasters, including pleasant people who love to chat
-TV, internet, and other eye candy
-Long lunches

In tomorrow’s blog we’ll take a closer look at how you can make the Covey Matrix work in your business.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

About the Author(s)

Tim Schaefer

Founder, Encore Wealth Advisors

Tim Schaefer guides large, successful farm operations, helping them get and keep a competitive edge. His tools are peer groups via the Encore Executive Farmer Network, transition planning, business growth planning, and executive coaching. His print column, Transitions & Strategies, appears regularly in Farm Futures and online at He is a Certified Family Business Advisor, Certified Business Coach and Certified Financial Planner. Raised on a successful family farm, his first business venture was selling sweet corn door to door with an Oliver 70.

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