Friday, August 3, 2018

Alignment - The Covey Matrix and Rescheduling Priorities

Last week I spoke of the need to take an inventory of how we spend our time. Our tasks are important, but over the course of our life, our responsibilities change. What does not change is how much time we have in a day. So, rather than beginning with our list of responsibilities (tasks), we must begin with how we spend our time.

For instance, I usually prepare my blog on Wednesday in order to post on Friday. Today is the exception because I have an opportunity to see a friend from Nigeria who is in America for just a few more days. I only learned he in Kansas City (about 2 hours away) on Tuesday, and fortunately, he is unable to meet today, so we are planning on having a long lunch tomorrow. But means that I must get today's work done as well as tomorrow's (which is usually sermon prep day). But because I know my time inventory as well what is important versus urgent, I can make adjustments when the needs (or in this case desire) arise.

Before I share more about Covey's Matrix, let me provide the time inventory for a normal Wednesday. After I wake up, I usually lie in bed for 30-60 minutes and think. Some will call this a waste of time, but for me, it allows me to process my thoughts and begin to take control of them. What I mean is that you have no control over your thoughts at the moment you awake. Perhaps a noise has startled you, or a dream had control of your mind, etc. So I get those thoughts out of my way and begin thinking about what I need to consider because once I am out of bed, I am normally in "go" mode (except if my back is hurting). Then, I get ready, eat, set out the trash, head to the office and begin my daily work including to post the church blog, prepare my personal blog, prepare for any meetings that evening (not studies, those are completed Monday), do some administrative work, eat lunch, read, do sermon research, do something related to PTC, eat dinner, attend a meeting, go to prayer meeting in summer (Community Groups the rest of the year), check emails and Facebook,  journal (I resume this discipline today), and relax while watching a show with my wife. Finally, the day ends as it started - in bed. (The timeline for a typical Wednesday with the related Covey Quadrant is as the bottom of this post.)

But this week, I must consider what is most important if I am to cover two days worth. This is where having considered the Covey Matrix is helpful. The picture here is a quick review of what each quadrant represents and how to use it effectively. (The full article is worth your time. It can be found at:
Picture found at:

Most everything on a typical Wednesday is in Quadrant 2, but I can cut time from Quadrant 4 by limiting my thought-processing time early, by eating quickly, and postponing my sermon research and administrative work scheduled for Wednesday this week. Thankfully, four additional factors are very helpful this week. First, my back did not hurt this morning, so I gained time then. Second, I was extraordinarily productive Monday so I can skip the administrative work. Third, much of my research for my sermon was completed last December because I was writing a series of sermon outlines for LifeWay which I am currently using now, and our church is in the midst of some renovations so we are not having a meeting that is typically scheduled for this evening.

So, I can look at my schedule and see what is most important for these today and tomorrow if I wish to see my friend. These are items which I must do (i.e. I cannot delegate), and do not want to become stressed by delaying the work. If you recall above, I mentioned I do my Wednesday lesson planning on Mondays (when it is important, but not urgent) rather than Wednesdays (when it would be both important and urgent). This is why I do sermon research (Quadrant 2) on Wednesday so I can do my sermons on Thursday (again Quadrant 2, since the sermon is not "due" until Sunday morning). However, I must also consider anyone else who is effected by my work. If a powerpoint or handout is to be used, then that person needs to have the information timely. And if I am to be a good leader and set the example, then I need to get my information to the person(s) involved in a manner so they can operate in Quadrant 2 as well (i.e. not putting them in a urgent mode because of my lack of planning).

Therefore, this week, I need to determine if I want to push off my sermon prep (Thursday's primary task) until Friday or do it a day early. The problem with moving it up is that I am normally not mentally ready to do it on a Wednesday. The problem with moving it back is that my Fridays are usually heavily focused on my work as an adjunct for the seminary, and that is especially true this week. So, in weighing the options, today (Wednesday) is the better day. To mentally prepare, I woke up 45 minutes earlier, abbreviated my morning schedule, and began my work earlier. For instance, I am in the final moments of writing this blog and the time is not quite 9:30 am, which is usually about an hour before I would begin it, so I will have about two hours to begin working on my typical afternoon items - one of which I mentioned I will forgo this week because the research is already complete. So, I should be able to complete my sermon and its related components today, which will free me up to be gone for several hours tomorrow and still remain free of Quadrant 1.

As Covey said, "the key is not to schedule our priorities, but to prioritize our schedule." If you review my schedule below, you will see that I have some Q4's at the beginning and end of my day, but otherwise my schedule is prioritized to accomplish what is important before it comes urgent. Therefore, while I prefer to keep to this schedule, I have some buffer in my overall schedule should an emergency arise (such as a member of my congregation having surgery) or if a rare opportunity presents itself (like a friend from 1/3 of the way around the world being two hours away). Of course, the opportunities (rare or otherwise) should fit within the scope of your overall life mission, but that was last year's series. For me, seeing Ayo does fulfill my mission (and my vision) as another friend and I are considering going to Nigeria next year on mission so talking to Ayo while he is here fits perfectly!

Again, my purpose in sharing these posts is ultimately that we become better disciples for Jesus. God is the author of time (as well as life), so learning to manage ourselves related to the time we have been given will allow us to not only be more effective, but to know when worthwhile alterations to our plans are possible and when they are not. Therefore, I hope these musings are profitable for those who read it, not just in me sharing from my experiences, but in helping others to consider how to best organize (align) their lives as well.

Time Inventory (Covey Quadrant):
45 minutes (6:45-7:30) - Awake and process thoughts (Quadrant 4)
1 hour (7:30-8:30) - Get ready and eat, set out the trash, and stretch my back (Q2, I often read ministry-related magazine articles as well, thus Q2)
8:30-9:00 - Quickly review 3 websites for news and sports, post Church blog (Q4)
9:00-11:30 - Prepare for meetings, Church-related admin work, prepare blog (Q1, blog is Q2)
11:30-12:15 - Eat lunch and relax (Q4)
12:15-12:30 - Check emails (Q3)
12:30-4:00 - Read Bible, sermon research, and read from a book (Q2)
4:00-5:00 - PTC - related (Q2, usually, could be Q1)
5:00-5:30 - Eat (Q4)
5:30-6:30 - Meeting (Q2 usually, but occasionally Q1)
6:30-8:00 - Community Groups (prayer meeting ends earlier) (Q2)
8:00-8:30 - Get home, prepare a small snack (Q4)
8:30-bed - Emails, Facebook, journal, and watch a tv show (Q3 to Q4)

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