The master of time, Mr Stephen Covey introduced this matrix to us in his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ Many of us have read and used his strategies effectively.
His proposal is that rather than using a to-do list we can organise our time and tasks around what is important and what is urgent.
To distinguish the difference:
IMPORTANT: Refers to anything that you will have to do to achieve your objectives and goals (e.g. tasks in a performance review), or relating to something you really value (e.g. spending time with your family and managing your health).
URGENT: Refers to anything with an immediate deadline (usually in the next 24 hours) that does, or seems to require your immediate attention. It can be a deadline you’re due to meet, a decision that needs to be made or has the highest priority.
I find this useful when I am mapping out my week, to determine what needs my attention the most.
I like to put the ‘quadrant one’ things in the morning, when I am more active and alert, and able to burn through tasks a bit quicker.
I like to put the ‘quadrant two’ tasks in the afternoon, when I have more time and inclination to focus on bigger picture, alternatives and have more scope to plan and think.
I try to avoid ‘quadrant four’, or call myself out when I wander across to tasks that aren’t of benefit, or give myself permission to have some fun over lunch time, say on facebook, leaving it open all day gives me temptation to open it up or be interrupted by someone wanting to say hi at a spontaneous time.
I also have one day per month where I plan out the month ahead, and this is where I would use ‘quadrant three’ time, to look at what I want to achieve and what the priorities are and how to map out the steps towards it with the weeks ahead.
Experiment a little…
Give Urgent vs. Important a try for when you plan the week ahead next. It also helps to do this the Friday afternoon, so you can come straight in on a Monday and attack the right urgent or important tasks!