Hey. I'm Brian, the VP of Growth at HubSpot. You know what's harder than growing a company?
Determining what the hell to focus on.
For entrepreneurs, every day is different. One day I'll be signing partnership agreements. The next day I'm interviewing job applicants. And the following day I'm pitching investors. All the while, praying my brain doesn't deactivate after last night's three hours of sleep.
Yet if I can count on one thing, remaining steady, despite the day ... is that there will be distractions.
"Hey Brian, can you send me that partnership agreement?"
"Hello Brian, will you shoot over this month's revenue report?"
"Umm ... Brian ... the server just crashed. What should we do?"
Constantly distracted by external requests (let alone internal thoughts or ideas, which can be the most distracting), it's easy to forget long-term goals. However, there's a systematic approach I use to stay focused.
A template that forces me to consciously think about a task's importance before doing it.
It functions in three easy steps.
Step 1: Copy the Blank Time Management Matrix Template.
First, make a copy of the Blank Time Management Matrix Template by clicking File > Make a Copy. You can use this blank template to follow along, inserting your own tasks, as I quickly explain how I use the template to prioritize.
However, you must be signed into your Google account in order to make a copy!
Step 2: Write new task, label by quadrant.
Step two is simple. On the sheet 'My To-Do List', write a new task in Column A, then label the task by priority (1, 2, 3, or 4) in Column B.
It will now magically appear in the sheet 'My Prioritized To-Do List', automaticallyorganized for you.
The task prioritization system I use is Dwight Eisenhower's strategic time management matrix (diagram visualized below), which organizes tasks into four quadrants.
Before I used Eisenhower's prioritization system, my to-do list was a never-ending nightmare:
All tasks merged together, leaving me with the perplexing question ... what should I do first???
Now, rather than randomly completing unprioritized tasks, I put them into the template. This forces me to question a task's importance.
I take a few seconds. Stop. Take a breath. Think...
"Do I specialize in this?"
"Does it contribute to my long-term goals?"
"Could someone else do this? Should I focus on something else?"
Through these questions, I'm building a system that will drive business forward. Particularly, one guided by my personal G.P.S. system, where I define my Goals, Priorities, and Specialties.
Goals.Achieve 500,000 weekly active HubSpot Sales Free users, grow team to 15 intelligent people, and exercise three times per week.
Priorities.Spend time with family and friends, exercise regularly, hire smart people, and educate current team members.
Specialties.Training team members, analyzing growth experiments (whether product features or marketing), and customer/competitive analysis.
My personal G.P.S. system is the ultimate roadmap (pun intended) for focusing on important tasks, both professionally and personally. It helps me stay focused, but more functionally, it's now easier to label tasks into the appropriate quadrant in Column B.
I encourage you to write down your own G.P.S. system, which is available in the blank template:
For a full glimpse into my to-do list, an example of a completed time management matrix template, access it here.
Not only will you gain access to all my to-do list tasks, but I'll explain the logic behind why I labeled tasks into that specific quadrant.
For a preview, here are a few Q1 tasks and the logic behind why I label them as Q1.
Q1: Important/Urgent Tasks (Do Now)
Why I labeled Q1
Prepare Q1 growth metric results for team meeting tonight
Leading our team and hitting 500k WAU is a goal. Urgent because it's due tonight.
Review persona research questions before customer interviews today
Customer analysis is a specialty. Urgent because interviews are today.
Send video chat dial-in information to job candidate for final interview tomorrow
Hiring smart people is a priority. Plus, I can quickly check this off my list by scheduling an email to her, so she gets it 10 minutes before the interview.
Coordinate time with friends for fiance's surprise birthday party tomorrow night
Time with family and friends is a priority. Urgent because it's tomorrow night(!)
Review latest retention experiment and have front-end developer implement before tomorrow.
Analyzing growth experiments is a specialty. Urgent because meeting is today.
Similarly, here are a few Q3 tasks and whether I'll delegate, automate, or decline them.
Q3: Not Important/Urgent Tasks
Whether I'll delegate, automate or decline
Coffee request for tomorrow from small-business podcaster I met at networking event
Politely decline request, as it detracts from my personal G.P.S. system. Also, I work mostly with SaaS products, not small business, so this doesn't make sense.
Pay Internet and gas bill due tomorrow
I can automate this, eliminating tasks from future to-do lists, through automatic billing from my checking account.
Schedule haircut and doctor appointment
I can delegate this to a personal or virtual assistant.
Promote today's blog post on Twitter and to email list
Finally, once a task is completed, delete the task on the 'My To-Do List' sheet. Do not delete tasks on the 'My Prioritized To-Do List' sheet. Doing so will erase the formula used to visually sort the tasks.
That's it. It's incredibly simple, yet surprisingly powerful.
Simply write in your new task, label it by quadrant, then delete the task once you're finished. However, you may be asking, "What if I don't have personal assistants?"
Great news. I'm covering that exact subject in a few days.
I'll explain how I find the right personal assistant, including the exact websites to use and precisely how much it costs. Yes, even solo-entrepreneurs will benefit from this information.
In addition, I'll explain how I save time using automated email templates to outsource tasks, which you can easily copy and paste. Everything will be available, completely free, to all email subscribers (subscribe below).
Until then, I'm happy to answer specific questions about how to use the time management matrix template in the comments.
Originally published Oct 21, 2015 1:16:00 PM, updated July 28 2017