Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A business owner from Colorado called me the other day to talk about his seemingly ever-increasing workload that now exceeds 70 hours per week, touching every day that ends in “y.”  Like most other conscientious business owners, this executive performs myriad functions ranging from vital client sales through challenging employee issues to unending administrative issues which are usually done at home, during the evening, when he should be enjoying quality time with his lovely family.

Sound like anyone you know?

Instead of working every day that ends in “y,” the better work strategy is “why”?

You know him.  He’s a nice guy.  He would rather do the work himself than have others be inconvenienced by doing tasks that may risk them working overtime.  Likewise, he always says “sure,” when someone interrupts his workflow and asks “do you have a minute?” That minute usually lasts 15 minutes.  And like most business owners, he has a tendency for perfection rather than being satisfied with mere excellence, which detrimentally involves him spending disadvantageous time that could be better spent elsewhere.

As capitalists, all of us, you, him, and me, must become better at time management.  That precious resource becomes more priceless with each passing day, event, and year.  Never to be regained.   While providing the obligatory overview of standard time management principles (e.g., never schedule more than 60% of your time, prioritize tasks more economically, set goals, deadlines, and boundaries, just say “no,” increased delegation, better planning and multi-tasking), I introduced the Time Management Matrix to him, as an over-arching format to gain a more holistic approach to his time management mindset.

The Time Management Matrix defines every task along two dimensions (e.g., Urgency and Importance) with a comparative scale for each, yielding four potential outcomes.   Thus, rather than treating all activities equally on a first-come first-serve basis, the Time Management Matrix categorizes each task and provides direction regarding whether the person should engage in spending relative time on the activity.


Urgent and Important Not Urgent but Important
“Do it now” “Schedule it”

Urgent but Not Important Not Urgent and Not Important
“Delegate it” “Don’t Do it”


Urgent and Important:   These activities should be done immediately.  For example, responding to a crisis, emergency, or an OSHA audit, a Top Tier customer complaint, or an injury-involved vehicle accident.

Not Urgent but Important:   These activities should be scheduled for some time in the future.  For example, touching base with various customers, sales proposals, planning sessions, or doing the labor schedule.

Urgent but Not Important:   These activities should be delegated to qualified staff.  For example, responding to a specific employee question that would be best answered by the employee’s supervisor, addressing a delayed delivery to a job site, or meeting with an external vendor sales representative.

Not Urgent and Not Important:   These activities should not be done.  For example, attending meetings because you think you should be there, making sure all the crews get back to the yard each day, or reading unnecessary Internet content while on company time.

Do you know “why” the Time Management Matrix is important?  Because it will help the business owner reduce his time at work to a manageable 50 hours/week and have more hours at home with his loved ones.  After all, that is “why” we work.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.