Ever get the feeling that inspiration for the movie “Groundhog Day” was taken straight from a contact centre? It can be easy to concede that falling into a repetitive work pattern is inevitable when the nature of the challenges being faced is repetitive. But how much of the challenge repetition is self-inflicted and avoidable? The Eisenhower Method offers a simple test to evaluate the likely value of the activities we undertake on a day-to-day basis.
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important” Dwight D. Eisenhower
When serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for the command decisions of 2 million soldiers. To avoid sinking beneath the quagmire of tasks he faced, Eisenhower utilised a simple and innovative framework to guide his task lists.
Think of any activity you have either done, or plan to do, and ask yourself two simple questions. Is it important? Is it urgent? Based on your answers to these two questions, plot the activity into the appropriate quadrant.
This quadrant offers a hive of activity with which to consume your day, week, month, year, life! These tasks are urgent, and important, and hard to ignore. Short term performance challenges resulting from increased customer demand, or Agent shortfalls, beg for immediate response. However, how many of the activities pursued to address a short term performance challenge actually contribute towards achievement of your long-term goals? And more importantly, how many of these activities address the root cause of the short term performance challenge to stop it from reoccurring?
Quadrant 1 activities demand your attention, but contribute next to nothing to the long term goals of the contact centre, or its staff. Have you developed the habit of dwelling in quadrant 1? The only way out of quadrant 1 is investment in quadrant 2 activities. But where will you get the time when quadrant 1 is important and urgent? Diverting time from quadrants 3 and 4 offers the only sure way to break this habit!
Quadrant 2 tasks offer the means to break the cycle of Quadrant 1 activities consuming every working (waking) hour. These activities are the ones that build towards achievement of long term goals, and help others build towards their long term goals. Coaching, training, analysis, research, self-development, design, and reflection; these are the activities we often feel we don’t have the time for, yet they are the activities that provide relief from the frenzied consumption of our time on quadrant 1 activities.
Our greatest challenges, achievements, motivations, and fulfilments all come from our quadrant 2 activities, and it is here that our time should be invested. The time spent on the important, but not urgent, tasks in our lives minimises the occurrence of quadrant 1 activities. Time spent on these activities leads us away from “Groundhog Day”. In fact, in the movie it was the diversion of TV meteorologist Phil Connor’s (Bill Murray) time from quadrant 1, 3, and 4 into valuable quadrant 2 activities that eventually lead to him breaking away from Groundhog Day!
Quadrant 3 activities steal unscheduled time and offer no value. Phone calls, unimportant email, and unwanted guests at your desk, all result in time being consumed in activities that appear unavoidable (and urgent) but are of no importance. Self-discipline is the only way to leverage time out of this quadrant, and divert it into the quadrant 2 where real progress and value can be found.
The dwelling place for procrastinators and time wasters, quadrant 4 activities are neither important nor urgent. Interestingly, we can sometimes convince ourselves that quadrant 4 is where we take the time to relax; but it’s important to remember that nothing of consequence takes place in this space. Whatever can be done should be done to minimise the time you spend in quadrant 4, for this is where the extra time for quadrant 2 can be harvested.
Just divert time from quadrant 3 and 4 activities into quadrant 2 and the perils of quadrant 1 activities will begin to diminish; sounds so simple. However, the habit of doing everything except those things that are important, but not urgent, may have taken years to develop – it’s not going to be a habit you can break overnight. Groundhog Day is an easy trap to fall into, but through discipline and planning the cycle can be broken!
I would love to hear about your escape from contact centre Groundhog Day. Have you discovered an escape hatch to freedom?
And if you ever need a hand making the most of your new found time in quadrant 2, you’re always welcome to seek assistance in developing your contact centre coaching, training, analysis, research, self-development, and design skills with QPC.
Jason Metcalfe, QPC Solutions Manager