Monday, September 10, 2012

You Can Teach A New Dog Old Tricks

"Never leave 'till tomorrow which you can do today." By Benjamin Franklin

How many of you have ever stayed up all night when you were younger to get a project completed for school or college? I have, and I am sure that most of you will have answered yes too. Even the most organized scholar can fall prey to a looming deadline that comes around quicker than a tornado.With my son in 10th grade, the work in high school has become more and more demanding.

He is constantly juggling his time to complete projects, homework, as well fitting in extracurricular activities. The big wide world of college is only a few years away and it is becoming more and more apparent he needs a little help in organizing his time. I admit he gets easily distracted, as does any other teenager; he is only human after all. There are so many temptations these days. For instance, I am convinced the XBOX sends subliminal messages of, "play me, your homework can wait," out across the our wireless network and the video chat rooms such as OOVOO are so much more appealing than the essay that had to be written yesterday. I could take them away, restrict his access, but then I am afraid that homework may then seem like a punishment and I do not want that to happen.

It seems, my only recourse to this problem is to teach him the art of prioritizing in a logical way that he can manage. In the past, I have used a great little tool myself. It is simple but powerfully effective. The tool is the Urgent/Important matrix. Some of you may have heard of it, but for some it may be a new idea. Whichever camp you fit into, I can guarantee everyone will benefit from using it. The key to success is to define the difference between importance and urgency. Remember the saying "what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important." 

To use the matrix, the first step is to make an extensive list, on a separate piece of paper, of all tasks, activities, and projects that have to be done. It is essential to include everything that takes up your time, no matter how small. Against each item on the list place an importance value using a 1:4 scale, 1 being very important, 2 being important, 3 being fairly important, and 4 being unimportant. At this stage, do not even think about the urgency of the task as this could sway the true importance value and try to be discerning, do not put all items as high importance, being realistic is the key.

Once you are happy with the assigned importance values, you can now evaluate the urgency. Deadlines and risk factors help with this stage. Think also about the snowball effect, is the task in danger of growing bigger if left? As you complete this section, place your tasks in the grid. 


Now, with everything weighted you can start to see a clear plan in front of you.
Quadrant 1: These things need doing now, no procrastinating.

Quadrant 2: These tasks are longer term and need work doing. Plan time to do these before they become a quadrant 1 item.

Quadrant 3: Do you really to do these or can someone else help? For instance, if you are doing a group project are you doing more than your fair share, can you delegate? 

Quadrant 4: Your frivolous time. Is Xbox really important? Needless to say these items are only done if you have got time, if they are not nothing will be lost.

This week I am putting a big white-board in my son's bedroom, along with a set of colored dry erase markers. With a clear plan hopefully his stress level will go down, those late night quick-fix essays should become a thing of the past, his grades will stay on target, and finally we all can get a good night's sleep!




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