Is your professional life like that of a fire fighter-unpredictable workday, putting out one fire after another, stiff deadlines to meet under intense pressure? Are the words crisis, problems, emergencies and deadlines frequently heard in your daily work life leaving you exhausted and fatigued?
If the answer to the above questions are yes, it is likely that you are a company secretary in a large corporate or in practice facing the challenge of a rapidly changing corporate law, punctuated by new deadlines like KYC-3, Ben-3 frequently cropping up with little notice and developments like mergers & acquisitions and restructuring taking a toll on your already tight schedule.
Faced with these challenges can you move from a reactive, hurried and task orientation work life to a proactive, serene and goal-oriented work life? The answer is yes, if you can make some conscious changes to your works style using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
‘What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important’ remarked Dwight Eisenhower the 34th US President and a Five-star general in the II Word War. This quote inspired a 2×2 matrix mapped on the two parameters-Urgent and Important that resulted in Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Looking at the Not Important half of the matrix, activities like frequent checking of Whatsapp, the Facebook status and internet browsing are activities falling in the Not Urgent & Not Important quadrant. These activities can be eliminated during the work day or scheduled only at tea breaks, lunch breaks or after office hours. To the extent that these provide pleasure and can be stress busters, they can be allotted fixed time thereby enhancing work-life efficiency. Checking official emails and attending routine meetings fall in the quadrant of Urgent & Not Important. These are work life routines which cannot be avoided and where efficiency is the key; getting more done in less time is the answer and everyone has their own techniques for mastering this segment. But the two common techniques for achieving personal efficiency is delegation and automation.
The differentiating factor between a compliance expert and a governance champion is how they deal with the upper half of the Eisenhower Matrix of Important tasks. Based on the time spent between the two quadrants in this half, you can self-assess where you stand. In the quadrant, Important & Urgent are routine functional activities that define a function. For CS it would be preparing and attending board meetings and shareholder meetings, fulfilling SEBI and MCA compliances and providing inputs to the business team for their transactional needs. If you are spending more than 50% of your time in this segment, you need to pause and take stock of what you can do different. How you can minimize the time spent on this segment and reallocate it to time spend on the fourth quadrant –Important & Not Urgent. Your ability to reallocate time between the two quadrants will define how you can move from being reactive to being proactive; from having others set your agenda to setting your agenda.
Across all professions, not just professions but also personal life, the tasks in the quadrant of Important & Not Urgent look very similar. In this quadrant fall the activities which may be described as ‘sharpening the axe’ for cutting the wood; activities like setting your own goals, learning new skills, updating your professional knowledge, networking with your professional colleagues and scanning your environment to keep yourself abreast of the changes.
For the CS professional Important & Not Urgent activities can be the following:
- Spending quality time for professional knowledge updates and changes in economic environment-not just in India but also globally,
- Personal reskilling – learning to use the new emerging technology like social media and innovate apps for personal productivity, often an underrated element,
- Setting new goals like defining your own timelines and not being dictated by statutory deadlines
- Scheduling your calendar to attend professional meets and interact with fellow professionals, and
- Last but not the least, visualising your profession in the social and economic context to see what it can do to enhance its influence in creating a more prosperous economy, embedded in a fair and just society.
To conclude, we can rephrase Eisenhower to say, “Your profession is defined by what you do that is important and urgent, and the time you spend on what is important and not urgent personally defines where you stand in your profession and collectively where your profession stands in the society.”