How to do more cool stuff and love your work

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Time is the resource we never have enough of, and is the most limited. Many managers find they’re spending a lot of time doing work they don’t enjoy, leading to dissatisfaction and burn out. Here, we adapt a common time-management technique to also allow you to do more of the work you enjoy, while providing development opportinities to your reports.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Many managers have heard of the Eisenhower matrix, for those that haven’t, or need a refresher, the Eisenhower matrix is a productivity tool used to prioritise tasks.

It is a 2 x 2 grid with four quadrants. The top row represents important tasks; the bottom row the not important tasks. The left coloumn represents urgent tasks; the right column the not important tasks. Therefore we have 4 quadrants:

  1. Important and Urgent – These tasks have deadlines and consequences
  2. Important but not Urgent – Tasks with unclear deadlines that are good for long-term success
  3. Not Important but Urgent – Tasks that must be done but don’t require your skillset
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent – Distractions and unnecessary tasks that don’t contribute to success

Depending on who you ask, the actions for tasks in each quadrant can vary slightly. But the general idea is:

  1. Prioritise and do yourself
  2. Schedule for later
  3. Delegate to someone else
  4. Eliminate
A diagram of the eisenhower matrix
The Eisenhower matrix is a useful tool for evaluating priorities and making the most of your time

However, there’s a potential issue: if I’m delegating all the unimportant work, and doing the important work myself, I might not be providing my team members with sufficient challenge to develop them.

Make time for the cool stuff

At LeadDEV London 2024, Dominika Pietrzak – a software engineer at GymShark – gave a talk titled ‘More Time For The Cool Stuff’. She suggested an innovative twist on the traditional Eisenhower matrix by replacing the ‘Important’ axis with ‘Cool’.

In the new matrix:

  • The top row is for things you think are cool and want to do.
  • The bottom row is for things you don’t find interesting.
  • The urgent axis remains the same: things with deadlines and consequences are urgent and go on the left; things that aren’t urgent go on the right.

The outcomes for each quadrant remain the same:

  1. Cool and urgent: do now.
  2. Cool and not-urgent: schedule for later.
  3. Uncool and urgent: delegate.
  4. Uncool and not urgent: eliminate.
A diagram of an alternative eisenhower matrix, where 'cool' replaces 'important'
Let ‘Cool’ replace ‘Important’, and re-evaluate your tasks

Applying the Matrix

Does this mean I’m giving my reports boring work?

No! What you find boring might be exciting for somebody else:

  • Analysing a spreadsheet and writing a report might be dull for you, but a junior employee might be thrilled to contribute to company decision making.
  • Setting up a kubernetes deployment might not interest you, but someone new to DevOps might be excited to learn.

Dominika aptly put it:

“Your uncool might be somebody else’s cool.”

Dominika Pietrzak

Sharing the tasks that we find ‘uncool’ gives us more time to do the cool things we enjoy and provides opportunities for our team members to develop their skills.

Try implementing the ‘Cool Stuff’ Matrix in your task management and see how it transforms your productivity and your team’s engagement.

Feature Image: Bench Accounting on Unsplash


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