Many of you may know that this week we celebrated Diwali. That is the festival of lights and is a huge deal for any Indian. Yes, our houses light up, there are fireworks, it’s bigger than Christmas and New Years combined. There are many sweets and gifts exchanged. It does not matter what religion you follow; the entire country comes together to celebrate. Funny thing though, part of our rituals for the festival includes cleaning our homes. It’s our spring cleaning, in the fall, and the intent is that you are removing all the clutter and making room for new prosperities and beginnings. I was traveling all of last week so I didn’t get to do the robust organizing that I usually would, (my house is usually clean – yes – I believe cleanliness is next to godliness), but it did get me thinking about everything else in our lives. After two weeks out of the office, my inbox was overflowing. So, if we’re willing to clean up our homes at the festival, why shouldn’t we also practice the ritual of cleaning up in our work lives. 

Now everybody knows that famous quadrant of determining work—The Eisenhower Matrix—on how to make decisions on what’s important and urgent. It looks something like this:  The Eisenhower MatrixIt’s a matrix we have all seen before, but probably don’t refer to on a regular basis. So, I actually printed out the image and started making a list. You see, we all think that we are properly assigning work, but are we really? Do I really need to be the one organizing the Christmas party or Thanksgiving office celebrations? Well, how do we decide? I started going through each and every item in my mailbox, and open projects with the following criteria – and it was a simple yes or no. I took the four quadrants and asked if it was urgent and important. I then started placing items in quadrants. But how did I decide you ask, well, let’s take a deeper look: 

  1. Do First: these are my crises and emergencies. That’s your top left quadrant. These are the items that I need to personally be involved in, and usually include projects with deadlines. I think often people struggle with determining what is important. You see, sometimes we think that our skills are the only ones that can complete a job, but they aren’t. Others can do it (I know – hard to believe).  Now as an owner, people often try to tell me that everything is also urgent, in their mind, when they are not. The world will not end if the decision is not made until Monday. So being able to effectively put items in the right place is key.  
  2. Important, but not urgent, are items that I have to schedule. I work with Rency, my executive assistant, on the calendar. These are high-value tasks that deal with long term goals. It may be finalizing budgets and 2024 planning, reaching out to strategic customers, the work is important, but can be scheduled out.  
  3. The hardest one to figure out is probably our third quadrant—Not Important, but urgent. That darn Holiday party. I tell you, I love to be involved in these items (come on, who doesn’t love the holidays), but do I need to be active in day-to-day planning? No, I can delegate it.  
  4. The easiest one for me is the ‘Delete it’ quadrant, these are your not urgent and not important items. Sometimes things just land in our inboxes and we think “Why! Why cc: me on this? Do I really need to know?” I know it’s hard, and I often ask my team to please be courteous with email hygiene and ensure that they effectively tag items.  

So now, I went through the mailbox and filtered all of the open items into their respective quadrants, now I need to then assign it out. Urgent and Important, I need to do myself and prioritize. Important but Not Urgent—Rency will schedule. Urgent but not Important will go do division leaders, and not urgent and not important get the Delete Button.  

I like a good clean mailbox, and I am a person that likes to get things done. Sometimes we all just need a little reminder. Hence, if you haven’t had the time to do some good Diwali cleaning, it’s never too late. Open Outlook or any other email platform you use, print out the quadrant, and let’s get started. Happy Cleaning, and a very Happy Diwali to all my readers!   

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