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Personal Effectiveness

By RGrant 03 Mar 2021

Tools and Techniques

Whilst working/studying from home can provide us with many opportunities it can also present us with a challenge in terms of our approach to time management.  The many conflicting demands on our time presented by the pandemic are likely to blur the boundaries between work/study and home. Below you will find some tried and tested time management tools and techniques which might support you while working/studying from home.

1. Reflection 

Understanding when you feel most productive is an important factor to consider when working from home.  Take some time to consider and answer the following questions:

  • Which part of your day is most productive? Why?
  • Which part of your day is least productive? Why?

Reflecting on your responses to the above should support you when planning and structuring your day. 

2. Structure 

It is important to try and stick to some form of routine and try to structure your day as best as you can.  This might mean working around others in your household  to ensure that your time is protected without too many distractions.   Breaking tasks into manageable ‘chunks’ might also prove useful for some as it will aid the feeling of achievement as each ‘chunk’ has been completed.

3. Important vs Urgent Tasks (Time Management Matrix)

Some people find it helpful to categorise their daily/weekly tasks in order to distinguish between tasks that are important, urgent, not important and not urgent.  A useful tool which can be used to support this is the Covey’s time management matrix as illustrated below:


Source: Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Quadrant I – Contains tasks and activities that needs immediate action and attention
  • Quadrant II – Contains tasks and activities that are important, however, at this point in time they are not yet urgent.  A good example of this would be the important report/assignment due in 4 weeks’ time.   If we don’t address this within the next 3 weeks, or so, the task might end up as an urgent and important tasks (Q1). 
  • Quadrant III – Contains tasks that are urgent but not important to your overall goals.  Examples of this would be demands from other people/some meetings etc.   
  • Quadrant IV – Contains activities which adds no value towards your goals e.g. they are both unimportant and not urgent.  A good tip would be to try to avoid these at all cost as this would free up some valuable time.  Examples of activities here would be social media, internet browsing and other non-work-related distractions.

We should try, as much as possible, to ensure that we spend some of our time in quadrant 2 as this involves planning ahead and completing important tasks which are not yet urgent.  Failing to spend time in quadrant 2 is likely to result in tasks ending up in Quadrant 1 which is both urgent and important.  Spending too much of our time within quadrant 1 could leave us stressed and overwhelmed in the long run. 

Try using the above matrix to plan your day and after a while you will pay attention to and work on, what is most important to you and which will, in the long run, free up more of your valuable time.

4. The ABC Grouping Process 

Another useful tool which can be used to prioritise tasks is the ABC grouping process.  The premise is very simple as you label each task with either a letter, A, B or C.

  • A – These are tasks you want to get done today and are the highest priority
  • B – These would be nice to finish, but they are not requiring immediate action
  • C – Lowest priority, these tasks tend to have no sense of urgency but are nice to complete at some point.

5. Self - Care

Finally, try not to be too hard on yourself if you feel that you have not been overly productive as it is important to remember that this is a new/different way of learning/studying for many of us and a change in our normal routine can be disruptive to our overall productivity.  Instead of focusing on what you didn’t achieve at the end of the day try to focus on what you did achieve and be satisfied in the knowledge that you did your very best.    

By: Tina McGregor

Tina McGregor has worked in Learning and Development for over 20 years and joined RGU in November 2017 as a Leadership Development Specialist.