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Coaching Tools 101 – Workshops – 10 Easy Steps To Run A Workshop Using The Urgent Important Matrix

“If an audience only listens, they take away 12% of your content. By making it more visual, you can increase audience comprehension and remembrance to 26%. But when you actually get them involved and responding, their understanding and ‘take away’ goes up to 51%.” Mark Lavergne

The Urgent Important Matrix is an incredibly simple and powerful tool to help your clients manage their time more effectively. It’s also a compelling and helpful tool to use in a workshop or seminar – by getting them involved and responding.

Using a simple grid, it defines tasks according to their importance and urgency:

  • Quadrant 1 – Crises – URGENT and IMPORTANT
  • Quadrant 2 – Goals and Planning – NON-URGENT and IMPORTANT
  • Quadrant 3 – Interruptions – URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
  • Quadrant 4 – Distractions – NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT

10 Easy Steps To Use The Urgent Important Matrix In A Workshop Or Seminar

1) INTRODUCTION: First, share the overall matrix with your workshop attendees and make sure they understand the concept. This is ideally done by drawing it out using a whiteboard or flip-chart.

2) A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING: Next, go through each quadrant and ask your workshop attendees to share examples of activities they think fit into each quadrant — not just their own — but also things they see other people doing. If necessary, start them off with a couple of suggestions of your own (see the list below). And as people shout them out, write these on the white board or flip-chart.

Quadrant 1 — Important AND Urgent tasks we call “Crises”. Examples include; an important client calling and complaining that he STILL hasn’t received his order, an unmovable deadline for a project approaching and you’re nowhere near complete, your electricity has been cut-off because you forgot to pay your bill, an urgent trip to the dentist for something that has been bothering you for a while.

Quadrant 2 — Important and Non-Urgent tasks we call Goals and Planning. These include things like a review of priorities and tasks, working on major projects, maintenance and renovations at home, booking health appointments in plenty of time, doing budgets (at work and home) paying bills, building relationships at work/networking, maintaining close relationships at home, exercising and eating well.

Quadrant 3 — Not Important and Urgent tasks we call Interruptions. Examples of interruptions from others include family interruptions, unimportant phonecalls, some email (especially the email ‘pinger’) and unimportant/other people’s meetings.

Quadrant 4 — Not Important AND Non-Urgent tasks we call Distractions. These include constantly checking email, excessive TV, internet or use of computer games, excessive relaxation and sleeping, self-critical thoughts, gossip/idle chatting and people’s unique ‘escape’ activities.

3) MAKE IT PERSONAL: So, now get your attendees to draw the quadrants (or give them a printed version) and ask them to fill out specific examples that are unique to them in each quadrant. Make sure everyone has at least one personal example in EACH quadrant.

4) ASSESSMENT: Next ask them to estimate the percent of time they spend in each quadrant and write that number down against each quadrant. NB. Make sure this is a gut-feeling — ask them for their first and instant response so that they don’t have time to adjust the numbers and make them sound better! If necessary, remind them that honesty and awareness is key to making improvements.

5) REVIEW TIME: So, which quadrant do they spend MOST time in? How does that feel? Why do they think that is? The percentage and the personal activities they’ve assigned to each quadrant now gives them an opportunity to review how a) their time management (or lack of it) impacts how they feel and b) how they could spend their time more effectively.

Quadrant 1 — Crises — Are they stressed? For people who spend most time in crisis, highlight the negative impacts of stress. Perhaps dealing with crises is part of their job? Or maybe they just like the drama? How could they spend more time in Quadrant 2?

Quadrant 2 — Goals and Planning — For people who spend most of their time in goals and planning — great — congratulate them! They probably feel in control, are clear on where they’re going and may even be relaxed in their jobs. Help them here by asking how they could be EVEN more effective. Are they relationship building for when potential crises arrive? Are they enjoying themselves enough — do they need some interruptions and distractions?

Quadrant 3 — Interruptions — People spending a lot of time here are probably frustrated, stressed and feel like they never get anything done. Solutions are often about finding ways to say “No” to others so they carve out chunks of time to work on their important projects.

Quadrant 4 — Distractions — People spending a lot of time here are probably demotivated, may be unclear on their priorities and are likely to be stressed or frustrated with themselves. Solutions often revolve around finding meaning and purpose, gaining clarity and saying “No” to ourselves.

Tip: People who spend most of their time in Quadrants 3 and 4 often lack inspiration and motivation. They may be in the wrong job, be tired and/or stressed and could be using these activities to ‘escape’. They may need some help to clarify and identify important tasks and priorities or perhaps they need some help to see how what they are doing adds value. They also may need some constructive ‘fun’ or leisure time booked into their diaries so that it’s easier to work hard when they need to.

All of these areas are great for follow-up coaching. You may also find that a client can really benefit by identifying what’s truly important to them and aligning their careers and/or lives with their values. And while you may not want to cover values in this workshop it could be a great follow-up workshop or something you could offer to people interested in some personal coaching afterwards.

What we’re aiming for: The aim of The Urgent Important Matrix is for people to give priority to both working on, and planning for, their important projects – and this means spending time in Quadrant 2. This also means dealing with their problems BEFORE they become urgent. We also want people to become aware of where they distract themselves and get interrupted so that they can minimize the time ‘wasted’ in these areas. Then they can use the time saved and spend it in Quadrant 2.

6) LEARNING: So, what’s getting in the way of them managing their time better — specifically? Give them some examples and let them ponder for a moment. Then, put them into smaller groups of 3-5 to discuss the underlying reasons why each of them spends the time they do in each of the quadrants. The purpose is not to have a ‘complaining session’ but trying to pinpoint the exact causes. This part can also be done as a solo or entire group exercise depending on the size of the group and dynamics of the attendees. Finally get each group to report back to the main group on their findings.

Examples to start them off with include having a boss who is unclear about priorities and keeps giving them new tasks. Maybe the systems and processes they use lead to unnecessary extra work. Maybe the work is routine and boring. Perhaps people are unclear about what they’re doing and keep disturbing you to clarify. Or maybe their desk is next to the water cooler so people keep chatting to them. Make sure they are specific and can pin the issue down before identifying solutions.

7) SELF-AWARENESS: Where do they sabotage themselves? It’s time for your attendees to do some personal introspection. Where are THEY the cause of their issues? Help them to take some ownership. Examples of self-sabotage include — do they run effective meetings? Do they have trouble saying No? Do they enjoy the drama or a ‘hero’ role? Maybe they find it difficult to prioritise or perhaps they lack discipline and focus? Are they bored and uninspired in their life? Do they see relationship building as a waste of time?

NB. This is best done as a solo exercise unless there is already a high level of trust between the attendees.

8) MOTIVATION: So, how would they like to spend their time differently? What’s in it for them? You may find people like or get the idea of improving their time management — but until they’re truly motivated they won’t make the necessary changes. So help them discover what’s in it for them — a promotion, a pay-rise, some training, more time with the kids, a new job or career or perhaps simply doing less of what they loathe and more of what they love? So, ask the group, “How will your lives be different if you managed your time more effectively?” And let them share their ideas so everyone can hear and be inspired.

9) TAKING ACTION: So what could they do? It’s time to do some brainstorming. Get people either solo, or if you can into groups of 3-5, and ask them to work together to EACH come up with 3-5 possible actions to improve their time management. They don’t have to action all of them — this is just a brainstorming exercise. Maybe they could request some training or find a book on the subject, set time aside every morning or evening to plan their day or perhaps they could set up a regular meeting with their team or boss to clarify priorities. Maybe they could start work earlier when it’s quiet and focus on getting the big tasks done. Or maybe they need to feel they’re adding value or having fun — even if this is in their personal lives rather than their work lives.

10) COMMITMENT: Finally, ask them for 1-3 specific actions they will commit to. They must pick at least one action to take away and work on. Make sure this action is something they can implement right away — or in the next day or so. What is the KEY action that will make the difference to their effectiveness? Ask them to only pick actions they are 100% sure they feel inspired to complete. If necessary make the action smaller, until they can commit one hundred percent. Get them to WRITE the action down, and if you like ask them sign and date it for some extra commitment!

Once they all have at least one action, get them to share their action/s — either with the group or with the person next to them. This will depend on the time you have left and the size of the group.


As a wrap-up it’s always helpful and interesting (to yourself and the other attendees) to ask people what their biggest wins are from the session. What has helped them most?

And remember, if appropriate, mention that you’d love to work with people further if they’d like some help managing their time better, committing to their actions, creating a healthy lifestyle or maybe working on their values. Finally, make sure you have some business cards and promotional materials to handout and giveaway (and if they have a time-management focus so much the better). Now you’re good to go — enjoy your workshop!

Click here to view the Urgent Important Matrix as an image.

Source by Emma-Louise Elsey