In business and in life, small habits build success, and one of the most important habits is time management. Beyond being efficient in your work, the most successful people invest their time in activities that deliver value over time. The four quadrants of time management, a framework made popular by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, can help you determine how to invest your time to help you grow both your business and your life.
The Four Quadrants
- Important, urgent
- Fire drills and daily operations are probably your main stressors.
- Important, not urgent
- These are activities that don’t pay off immediately but generate growth and value for your life and business success.
- Unimportant, not urgent
- This is reality TV, video games, and time-wasters. They can be fun, but they aren’t vital to your business or your life.
- Unimportant, urgent
- Small inefficiencies are more inconvenient than anything.
The people who are most effective with their time focus on things that are in what Covey calls the “Important but Not Urgent” Quadrant or Quadrant 2. These activities are not necessarily time-sensitive, they are easy to procrastinate, but they are vital for growth. This includes marketing, employee training, getting Google reviews, etc.
In 2013, Storage Squad had 70% of their customers reach out to our team at some point in their lifecycle, either calling, chatting with customer service, or sending emails. This constant communication meant operations weren’t streamlined and that time and money were lost in handling customer service.
Over the offseason, I developed a system to send an automated email that went out at different times during the service window. Customers received an email when they signed up before they got boxes, after they got boxes, and the day before their appointment, often including YouTube videos to make things as clear as possible. In 2014, only 45% of customers reached out to the business in their lifetime, marking a significant reduction in customer service volume. More importantly, operations were smoother, trucks were on time, customers were happier, and fewer issues rose up.
Quadrant 2 activities will help you put out fires before they happen. Ask yourself what the biggest stressors of your business were last year, and think about how you can solve them before the problem comes up. These will do the most in scaling and growing your business as efficiently as possible. They’re valuable activities that pay back over time and can be done in those times when business is slower.
This principle also applies to life. Don’t wait until your health, personal relationships, or family are urgent. You should be watering those plants now. Don’t wait to start networking or meeting people until it’s urgent. The people who are most successful and have healthy lives are great at working within Quadrant 2, and you’ll be glad you did.
A Few More Things:
- There’s been a lot of interesting material in the Sweaty Startup subreddit with entrepreneurs posting monthly or quarterly updates on their business. We highly recommend you follow along, engage, and possibly post your own content so you can see how other entrepreneurs are succeeding and get feedback on your own ideas.
- I am currently reading Call Me Ted, a book about Ted Turner’s journey in taking over his father’s business and growing it into something that shaped American media. Reading is vital to growth and success.
- Listen to Episode 30 of the Sweaty Startup podcast to learn about how Nick overcomes the fear and anxiety of failure, and some advice on how you can do the same.
For business ideas or online entrepreneur courses, visit Nick Huber’s courses page for both free and paid resources.
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