How Our Quads Exercise Has Made Our Team Stronger Than Ever Before

It’s 2017. What did you leave behind in 2016? Was it all the old and irrelevant or did you miss some opportunities to become better, do more and achieve greater? Honestly, there’s probably no way you achieved everything you set out to do, and that’s okay. There are simply not enough hours in a day, month or year…right?

If you didn’t know, you actually are only one quick search away from learning just how much employee productivity affects the bottom line. The statistics are damaging for the ego and business planning. Here’s a taste:

  • Harvard found insomnia causes the average worker to lose 11.3 days of productivity each year (total loss of $63.2 billion).
  • Gallup found unhappy workers cost the US between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity each year.
  • Atlassian reported employees spend 31 hours in unproductive meetings over a month (estimated $37 billion salary cost for unnecessary meetings in the US).

Of course, those are only a few studies and there are even more factors out there that can lend to a productivity deficit, especially with modern influences like social media, chat systems, email and so on. The challenge of keeping employees motivated and productive has long been a discussion for leadership, and has led to tons of different theories and processes that experts swear by.

I am no different. Finding something that suits me and my team was a concern from day one, especially as more and more outside influences seeped their way into the workplace. We can’t ignore email, meetings or social media completely, and it would be bad practice to anyway. So how do we find a way to remain on task while including those new necessities?

Luckily, I found something that not only helped me, but actually brought my team better clarity in their day to day. For over 15 years, I’ve been using the same method and has become known around the office, as “the quads.” Our quads method or the “time-management matrix” was introduced in 1989 by Stephen Covey in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

The method requires the individual to organize their work into 4 quadrants. The first square is for urgent and important tasks, the second not urgent, but still important tasks, the third not important but urgent tasks and the last is not urgent and unimportant tasks.

This approach to organizing your week requires you to consider what tasks are important and what tasks simply seem important due to how they are presented. Those marked important (quads 1 and 2) contribute to your company’s goals and mission. Your largest focus should be the second quad, which will house your important but not urgent deliverables. These are generally the tasks that include building relationships and planning for better processes or preventing crises.

However, it’s generally the first quadrant that grabs our attention, because the tasks are important and crop up unexpectedly. Think: the squeaky wheel. The bottom quadrants are unimportant, but often are tended to first either because they beg for urgent attention or because they are more fun.

To better illustrate, consider yourself and your daily work. For most managers, the important things included in their week, their quadrant 2, would be the efforts that bring their company or team the most success. This would be business development pursuits or employee management and engagement planning. However, by mid-week most workers often find quadrant 2 unaddressed.

The quads, or time-management matrix, has allowed my team and I to visualize our week. We cannot hide from those other quadrants when they are laid out before us, and reviewing them puts more responsibility into planning the next week. There are times when the unexpected, but important tasks have to overshadow our important, yet less urgent deliverables. Often we allow ourselves to let go of the whole square for things that probably aren’t as urgent as we allow them to be. It’s absolutely crazy to see what our matrix looks like come Friday.

The biggest revelation is if we had spent more time on quad 2, the tasks that tend to consume quad 1 become less and less. When we plan and proceed with preventative measures, the urgent issues rarely crop up to tear our attention away from the important tasks that keep our company growing. The cool part of the matrix is its ability to scale. We can use them for monthly meetings just as well as we can for weekly planning.

Transparency is really important in our organization. That transparency means we’re honest with each other and ourselves. The quads exercise keeps us innovating and communicating.

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