Writings from Christine

Effective Time Management Skills for Working Women

by on October 12, 2017

The competing demands between work and family are enough to drive your female clients crazy. The pressure to perform well at work often conflicts with the desire to build strong relationships with family and friends. Coming into see you become last on their very long list of things to do. Yet that is precisely the opposite place therapy should be.

Instead, help your clients to set reasonable expectations, healthy boundaries and effective time management skills early on in the therapeutic process. This will reduce the stress of their everyday life, build confidence in your ability to understand their stress, and make room for dealing with the underlying issues.

One of my favorite time management techniques is borrowed from Steve Covey. It is his time matrix which I have modified to fit the needs of my clients. There are four quadrants to the matrix: crisis, quality time, distractions, and time wasters. The distinction between each is separated by whether the item is urgent vs. not urgent and important vs. not important. Each section has a couple of examples that are reviewed and modified to fit the individual needs of the client.

Time MatrixUrgentNot Urgent
ImportantCrisisQuality Time
Not ImportantDistractionsTime Wasters
  1. Crisis: Anything in this portion is both urgent and important making it an immediate priority. Crisis items must be dealt with immediately. Clients are asked to reserve 30-60 minutes each day to deal with crisis items to keep them from piling up day after day. Some examples include: work emergencies, accidents, sickness, stranded kids, mandatory attendance meetings, cleaning up spills, and deadline-driven projects.
  2. Quality Time: This piece is not urgent but important items. All of these items can and should be placed on a schedule. The goal is to keep these items in this section instead of neglecting it which results in the item becoming a crisis. Typical examples include: annual medical exams, exercise, cleaning the kitchen, rest, therapy, quality time with kids & friends, work trainings, future deadlines, gardening, and devotional reading.
  3. Distractions: As the most misunderstood sector, these items are urgent but not important. Most likely, someone else has decided the urgency but it is not important to the life of your client. When priorities are established and boundaries are set, this sector becomes smaller and smaller. Most of these items can be delegated to someone else. Some examples include interruptions, some phone calls or texts, meaningless reports, low priority emails, unnecessary meetings, helicopter parenting, and perfectionistic cleaning.
  4. Time Wasters: The last fragment is not urgent and not important items. All of these items can be eliminated and should only be done if the first two quadrants are completed. Some examples include workplace gossip, newsletter emails, reading blogs, completing surveys, surfing the web, watching TV, washing windows, and playing video games.

Restoring balance to the life of your client will give them the time they need to address the hidden traumas, forgotten grief, and buried memories. Each unresolved issue is a quadrant two item that has the potential of becoming a crisis if left unattended.

Posted under: Time Management Work Frustrations Writings from Christine

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