Spend Your Time On Things That Matter Most

In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells the story of his wife chairing an important hospital fundraiser.  Combining a busy family and chairing the committee were overwhelming her.  She started calling her friends to help.  Her best friend listened to her request and replied, “I’d love to help you out, but I promised my family that I wouldn’t take on anything else right now.  Thanks for asking, though”.  Covey’s wife looked at her husband and said, “I wish I’d have said that when they asked me.”

The basis of Covey’s book is being clear about your priorities and acting on them.  It sounds easy but most of us get caught up in doing the unimportant and neglecting the larger priorities.

Covey uses a Time Management Matrix (also known as the Eisenhower Matrix) to break down daily activities into four quadrants sorted by urgency and importance.

4 Quadrants of the Time Management Matrix along with examples (Image © Personal Excellence)

He gives each Quadrant a name:

Quadrant 1: Quadrant of Necessity

This is the Quadrant of emergencies.  Tasks here scream for our attention.  We frantically put out fires, frustrating ourselves trying to resolve problems instead of preventing them.

Quadrant 2: Quadrant of Quality & Personal Leadership

This is the magic quadrant to focus on.  It’s about having personal leadership and focusing on the tasks that matter.  Q2 tasks reflect your goals and desires as they are linked to your life purpose.  Not sure what your ‘Life Purpose’ is?  Read the introduction at How To Find Your Life Purpose.

Quadrant 3: Quadrant of Deception

This task here may seem important and urgent but that is often due to others’ priorities and needs.  Ask yourself, “Is this task related to my goals?  Does it make any difference to me?”  Q3 tasks are busy work, they take time away from Q2.

Quadrant 4: Quadrant of Waste

Q4 contains the time wasters.  People without focus hover around Quadrants 3 and 4.  After resolving Q3 tasks, they reward themselves by sliding into Q4.

Think about all the things you do on a typical day.  How much time and effort are you spending on each quadrant?

To learn more about Covey’s time management system watch Weekly Planning – a Video from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The road is easier together,

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