What's Your Quadrant?

Last Update: Jun 12, 2021

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Stephen Covey wrote one of the best time management and efficiency books of all time: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Even though Covey is long gone, his management principles have been proven by the test of time. I go back and reread parts of this book and have given it to my children to learn from.

It is so popular because it is a principle-centered approach for solving both personal and professional problems.

Quadrants of Activity

Sometimes the simplest concepts are the most profound.

There is a time-management matrix representing all manner of activities:

  1. urgent and importantg.
  2. non-urgent but important
  3. urgent but not important
  4. non-urgent and not important

Quadrant 1

The first quadrant is where we are running around putting out fires. This is when the boss calls wondering where that report is, to your frantic son interrupts you to help with his calculus test tomorrow, or you have a report due tomorrow that you have put ott.

This is what we might call "crises". These come and knock you down, wipe you out, make you struggle.

Try not to work from Quadrant 1.

Quadrant 2


This is where you want to be!

This is where to spend most of your time - this is productivity-land. This is working at WA to build your life, this is taking that correspondence course to get extra skills, this is studying for the sleep boards coming up next year.

Spending most of your time in this quadrant will make you a better, more efficient, disciplined worker.

Quadrant 3

This is the annoying stuff that is urgent but not important. This is the employee knocking on your door demanding your attention about something trivial, the email that has to be answered now even though it is not important, most meetings fall into this category.

Meetings can be a major waste of time - good time managers try to minimize them. There are usually much more efficient ways to communicate today without making everybody sit and be involved in a meeting. (I hate meetings!).

Quadrant 4

These are the not important and not urgent things in life; these basically are the time-wasters, trivia, busy work, stuff that is not important but maybe fun to do. Most mail falls into this category, sometimes you have to open it and then find it is worthless. Meetings can be in this quadrant too (back to meetings!).

Moving into Quadrant 2

Why was this concept so revolutionary? It seems like common sense but really it isn't.

The first generation of time management is what you see in Staples - plenty of to-do lists with stuff you can cross of. But no p[priority is attached to these to-do list items.

First Generation Managers. Additionally, there is no correlation between the to-do items and our ultimate values and purposes in life. We are just reacting to stuff, and often putting the hardest stuff off until it becomes a Quadrant 1 activity - urgent and important.

This means that first-generation managers are not very effective people. They are not as a rule doing stuff to make themselves better and more organized. They are responding to outside forces and not making outside forces work for them.

Second Generation Managers - These managers assume more control and are better managers than the first generation type; They will try to be in Quadrant 2 and not letting things get out of hand and develop into an emergency. But they do not have values aligned management system.

These are managers that are good managers and will get stuff done, but it is just that - stuff. There is no overarching plan to get to a values-oriented goal.

Third Generation Managers - This is where the time management field is today - we try to be in Quadrant 2 by mostly doing important stuff that is no urgent. We try to spend as little time as possible on other activities - and as much as possible delegate less important stuff to other people.

Summary

That was more than I intended to write when I sat down! Phew!!!

Most of my writing is about the latest thoughts about how to be efficient, how to be goal-oriented, how to not just putting out fires, and how to have your goals align with your deepest values and your mission statement.

You do have a mission statement, right?

Most about that later.

Dave.


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Recent Comments

13

Hey Doc, my mission statement is in my head, which isn't very well defined, will work on that. Thanks for the insight and have a great weekend.

Thanks very much for your kind comment.
I hope to write about a mission statement - at least for me having definite plans helps to clarify why I am doing what I do.
Every organization has a written value and mission statement.
More on that later!

Dave.

Top draw stuff her Doc
I will stick myself in that quadrant 2 for the sake of getting more productive , this is the first one for the week that is going straight to
THE VAULT
keep it up Doc
You provide high quality post
Nice one

Thanks so much for your kind remarks.
I am trying to produce information that will be of some benefit to people here as I am hopeful I might receive it in return.
Also, writing this stuff helps me focus my efforts as well.

Dave.

Nice one Doc , keep it up

Another excellent post, Dave.

Yes, Stephen Covey has been instrumental
in our organizations as well, personal and
professional.

I think it is safe to say that all of us fell into
these our categories at one time or another
and then when we became aware of them,
then we just realized, it is time to rearrange
our priorities.

Very well put, Dave, and thank you ever so
much.

Have a blessed night.

Elizabeth

Thanks for your comment - you are very kind. I am glad you found it helpful.

Dave.

Lizzie , am going into quadrant 2 as of today , I believe it's a very good way of getting productive

Dear Dave,

It has always been a pleasure
and enjoyable not to mention
informative and significant posts
you are sharing with us all the
time and I do really look forward
to reading your posts.

That's one part of my schedule
here in WA. :-)

Thank you so much for all that you
do around here.

Have a blessed weekend.

Elizabeth

Time management is a skill of mastery. Your blog points are aimed at what I'm still trying to accomplish and right on time. I've tried using blocks of time for each project by importance using blocks one, two and three. But unfortunately, I still struggle to accomplish my goal after failing several times and staying up until 4:00 AM writing. It is still a struggle for me to manage time. Thank you for the post and for the book tip. I'll check it out. Have a great weekend!! :)

Thanks for your comment.

The 7 Habits book is a great read and a real eye-opener - a classic of not only time management, but life management as well.

Dave.

Hi Dave, I heard about this book and you've outlined it very well, giving us a glimpse of the inside. I'm definitely stuck on quadrant 4.
I desperately need this book, and will make a point of getting it.
Thanks for sharing this eye-opening post.

Melanie

Thanks for your comment. It is a good way to think of getting things done. I too am frequently lost in Quadrant 4 - I think it is because you don't often have to think to be there!

Dave.

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