Being an entrepreneur in any industry is a challenging path full of obstacles and uncertainty. As entrepreneurs are expected to rely on themselves to get their business off the ground, being a success depends heavily on our ability to manage our time and motivation. It is one of the difficulties of self-employment in general, and one of the main reasons why so many people fail to make their business as successful as they’d want it to be.
Some entrepreneurs learn valuable time management skills early in life, but even they need help sometimes. When the tasks begin to pile up, and the rising stress deletes all thoughts except those relating to the job, it’s good to have a system to guide you. There are many theories about the best practices of time management to try out. Let’s have a closer look at one of them, called the Covey Quadrants, that classifies tasks by importance and urgency:
Stephen Covey’s Work
Stephen Covey was the author of two well-known books: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and First Things First, both dealing with topics of time management and attention. Seven Habits is his most famous work. It first published in 1989 and became the first non-fiction audio-book that sold over a million copies in U.S. publishing history.
Covey was a devout follower of the values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and it is said that this influenced his work. However, Covey’s books are easily understandable, relatable and helpful, especially when it comes to figuring out how to set priorities and manage time. That’s also a skill that can be quite useful to entrepreneurs, especially in the food and beverage industry.
Prioritization of Work — How Do People Usually Do It?
Prioritization is a common problem for people, both in business and in everyday life. The problem can become exacerbated when you’re the boss of your own time and have more liberty to decide which tasks you’re going to tackle first. If you don’t prioritize properly in those situations, you might fall behind on essential projects because of devoting all your available energy on something that isn’t as crucial.
But how does one determine what is crucial and what isn’t, especially in a situation where it looks like every single task should be prioritized? Busy people often face this difficulty and struggle in solving it, but it’s precisely where Covey’s work can help the most.
Eisenhower’s Urgent-Important Principle or Covey’s Quadrants
In order to figure out which tasks to prioritize, one of your first steps will be to classify them all by urgency and importance. Eisenhower used this principle and adapted by Covey into the Covey time management matrix that has since helped countless people learn how to prioritize. Distinguishing between importance and urgency is relatively straightforward, even though people don’t tend to classify tasks like this consciously.
Important responsibilities or tasks are the ones that contribute to achieving your ultimate goal. For a food entrepreneur who wants to make it big, all the obligations that result in the creation or improvement of the business could be considered necessary.
On the other hand, urgent responsibilities are the ones that require you to act immediately and usually are connected to someone else’s goal. These tend to be deadlines since not getting them done has immediate consequences.
The quadrants divide all tasks into four categories that can help you determine which ones you need to tackle first and keep your workload adequately managed. These four categories are:
- Urgent and important;
- Not urgent and important;
- Urgent and not important;
- Not urgent and not important;
Quadrant I — Very Urgent Deadlines
The first quadrant and the one that contains top priority tasks deals with responsibilities that require immediate attention, which is usually urgent deadlines. Some of them will be unforeseen situations, too, such as unexpected emergencies and significant crises. Even though this is the top priority quadrant where tasks will take precedence over others, it’s not to be overused. If you find yourself spending most of your time doing Quadrant I chores, it might be a sign that not everything is in order.
For example, if your deadlines are regularly very urgent, that might be showing you that you tend to procrastinate until the last moment. And if there are always unforeseen situations cropping up and throwing you off from your plans, you might not be planning efficiently or in enough detail.
Quadrant II — Important Long-Term Development
In Quadrant II, some tasks are essential, but not pressing or urgent. They usually have something to do with long-term achievements or goals, and the development of strategies to get there. Since these are the tasks that play an important role in the future, they’re also often connected to health, exercise and general wellness, as well as education.
Successful entrepreneurs spend most of their time doing tasks in Quadrant II, as opposed to letting them get to Quadrant I. In order to keep most of your tasks there, you need to plan efficiently and make sure you are allocating enough time for each job.
Quadrant III — Very Urgent Distractions
When it comes to Quadrant III, it’s not an easy one to manage as it is full of tasks that are urgent, but not significant. All the interruptions of your workflow that you encounter during the day fall into this category, from calls to meetings and emails. The tasks in Quadrant III might seem important, but their identifying trait is that they really aren’t.
In most cases, you can delegate or skip them, and if you can’t, you can designate a time slot to complete them and not worry about them for the rest of the day. For example, checking and responding to emails in the morning for an hour is an excellent way not to let Quadrant III tasks constantly interrupt your concentration, while still getting the job done.
Quadrant IV — Activities with Little to No Value
The fourth quadrant contains activities that should be avoided, as they offer little to no value, especially in the long term. These are the things you could live without — hours of TV, hours of pointless surfing on the internet, and generally wasting time doing nothing useful or productive.
Quadrant IV is mostly a tool to help you recognize where you waste your time. Few people would plan to watch TV for hours, but it can sometimes happen when you procrastinate or only want some time for yourself. However, most of the time you don’t need the Quadrant IV activities as they are not important and not urgent either.
Increasing Productivity by Prioritizing Tasks
Task prioritization is one of the most useful tools to increase productivity by improving your time management skills. The quadrants help you understand which tasks you should do first, and which ones you can delegate or skip altogether. That is supposed to ensure that you’re never overwhelmed with work, eliminate or reduce procrastination and create better habits.
The healthiest quadrant to be in is Quadrant II, with its tasks that affect your long-term achievements. It’s also where most of your personal development is done, and it plays a huge role in the lives of entrepreneurs who have to rely on their capabilities to start a business and make it successful.
Using the Quadrants and Classifying Tasks
When you think about what one day in the life of an entrepreneur looks like, especially in the food and beverage industry, you might come to the conclusion that entrepreneurs are people that wear several hats. They come up with their own marketing strategy; they’re in charge of their outreach, they develop the products, and in many cases produce them on their own as well. Their work is always with them, and if tasks start to pile up, that can create a lot of pressure.
Even the entrepreneurs who generally do a good job of managing their workload can benefit from using the quadrants and classifying tasks to prioritize them better. For example, an entrepreneur certainly has a lot of calls to make and emails to write, but their productivity would improve if they designated a time slot for it during the day and not let it distract them at other times. Other tasks that need classification might include marketing-related activities, such as managing ad campaigns or contacting influencers, business-related activities like planning budgets and creating content, etc. Designing a new advertising campaign could easily fall under Quadrant I, if it hasn’t been carried out on time as a Quadrant II task.
All of these tasks have to be done at some point, and some of them are daily recurring tasks that can’t be skipped. However, some will be less urgent or less important than others. In the day of an entrepreneur when there are so many things to do, this kind of prioritization ensures that everything is managed correctly.
Time Management Tips and Tricks
For those who aspire to become better at time management, but feel like they’ll never possess those skills, it’s important not to despair. The quadrants are one of the countless methods you can try out and adjust to your needs. Keeping it up and carrying on is the best thing you can do because good habits won’t form by themselves.
Another reason why Covey Quadrants can help even the procrastinators or the unmotivated is that they provide a clear visualization of which tasks matter. And you cannot classify a task without being clear on why it’s necessary or unimportant or urgent, which can do wonders for motivation. However, you need to hold yourself accountable for what you plan, which is why it’s good to track your activities.
Weekly and Daily Evaluation with Quadrants
If you wish to track your progress at learning how to manage your time more efficiently, it’s essential not to skip the weekly and daily evaluation. Use the time management matrix to plan your day, and track whether you’ve completed the tasks in their allocated time. Do the same for the entire week, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you spend your time during a typical day or week.
It might even help you realize which parts of the day are typically riddled with distractions, as well as to come up with some options of solving that problem. Also if the problem is merely a loss of concentration or focus, it might signal at your need to replenish some mental energy at a certain point in the day, which is where a good break would help.
Learning proper time management is a process, but you can find the right method for you with some experimentation. However, it’s vital to remember that there will be difficulties without proper task prioritization, and Covey’s time management matrix can help you determine which tasks are the most important and most urgent ones.
For busy entrepreneurs who have multiple roles to play in the success of their business, it’s imperative to avoid getting overwhelmed. With the amount of work an entrepreneur does and takes home every day, this is a realistic possibility. However, this can be countered if you remember not to set your expectations too high or make unrealistic demands of yourself. Allow yourself some time to recharge, so you’d be able to do better work and keep up managing your time correctly.
Being a successful entrepreneur in the food and beverage industry is not an easy feat to accomplish. It takes character and determination, as well as vast knowledge of the industry and the ability to follow new trends and capitalize on changing market conditions. Fresh industry insights can help a lot in many aspects of that mission, as they help you assess your business and determine whether there are any changes you need to make. If time management is one of the skills you think you need to improve, Covey’s time matrix might bring you one step closer to your goals.