Editors Note: This is a guest post from Brick Andrews of Life Sutra: The 4-Hour Workweek Journal. Brick Andrews is the founder of Life Sutra: The 4-Hour Workweek Journal. The Life Sutra questions old assumptions and socially reinforced illusions about how to live a fulfilling life while exploring new ways to live and work smarter.
Inspired by both the principles of time management and The 4-Hour Workweek, I had developed the Life Management Matrix. This matrix classifies the activities we perform into four categories which I will summarize here:
- The Quadrant of Transformation: Essential and unforgettable activities that have to get done and will make an immensely positive impact on your life.
- The Quadrant of Automation: Essential but forgettable activities that need to get done, but will not really have an impact on your life. These are things like changing the oil in your car or renewing your driver’s license.
- The Quadrant of Fun: Unessential but unforgettable activities that don’t need to get done, but which may provide a great deal of fun or lasting memories.
- The Quadrant of Elimination: Unessential and forgettable activities for which no one is depending on you, and that do not impact your health or happiness.
As I have noted before in a post on rethinking time management, this looks a lot like the Time Management Matrix in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. An entertaining description of Covey’s time management matrix can be found in this sketchcast on Using The Eisenhower Matrix.
So you could think of the Life Management Matrix as a recast of Covey’s time management matrix, done in a way to facilitate the application of the principles set forth in The 4-Hour Workweek. Be recasting, we can identify opportunities for eliminating and automating activities – necessary ingredients on a quest towards becoming on of the so-called Newly Rich. Instead of importance and urgency, we classify based on what is important outwardly to ourselves and others (essential) and what is truly important inwardly to ourselves (unforgettable). I just think the concept of importance needs to be expanded into these two dimensions to help us totally capture the holistic nature of what it means for something to be important. At the same time, while I think the concept of urgency is real, to me it just means where something essential will fall on the calendar.
All of this leads some major conclusions:
- Unessential activities do not really need to be scheduled and therefore can be eliminated from any time management system.
- Essential activities that have little inward importance (i.e. they are forgettable) should be looked at as opportunities for automation, outsourcing, process improvement, etc.
- Ideally, you can spend most of your time on what is important to you outwardly and inwardly, whether urgent or not.
One could therefore go through all the things they do, and classify these activities according to this scheme, allowing things that can be eliminated, ignored and automated to show themselves. However, while the model is somewhat static, what is important to us is not. Importance is a dynamic quality. What is important to us inwardly and outwardly changes over time. Let’s consider a couple of examples:
Example 1: Laundry. I would usually place this activity in the unessential and forgettable quadrant for rather obvious reasons. It is pretty unimportant. However, what if we are wearing our last items of clean clothes? Laundry becomes important! I think you would agree that laundry becomes essential, but remains forgettable. So at times laundry can be eliminated, but sometimes is cannot and becomes a category for automation. Solution: get a laundry service and schedule it when you are down to your last items of clean clothes!
Example 2: A Serious Hobby. At one time I played music semi-professionally. I loved playing in a band. Playing and performing music was definitely essential (I earned a living from it) and also unforgettable (I loved it!). Over the years, I gave up playing in a band and started working in the software industry. I got married and had children. I still love to play music, but it is hardly essential anymore. When I teach my kids how to play something or just sing some songs with them it is a truly unforgettable experience. So in time, music has moved from the quadrant of transformation to the quadrant of fun.
I hope these examples show how important it is to realize that how we classify activities (in really any time management system) can, and usually do, evolve over time. This fundamental component of life and time management is dynamic. Practically speaking, it probably means you should audit how you spend your time on a regular basis, for example, perhaps this is something you might do once a year. Remember: Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine. (Robert C. Gallagher)