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Stephen Covey developed his 4-quadrant matrix for effective time management to help prioritize what’s important and focus on that. The matrix is a simple, yet powerful tool to help you increase your productivity and manage time more effectively.
The 2x2 matrix uses Importance and Urgency as the decision criteria. Importance means the activities and projects that are likely to impact your long-term success. Urgent is defined as tasks that require immediate action.
QUADRANT I: Urgent & Important
QUADRANT II: Important & Not Urgent
QUADRANT III: Urgent & Not Important
Delegate or Reduce
QUADRANT IV: Not Urgent & Not Important
Source: Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Most people discover that they spend most of their time in Quadrants I and III.
Quadrant I (Urgent & Important) tasks should be dealt with promptly to avoid unnecessary stress and to prevent issues from escalating.
Quadrant II (Important & Not Urgent) is underutilized. Tasks in this quadrant contribute to long-term goals and personal development. The second quadrant is where you’ll be most strategic and where you should be spending more time to prevent tasks from being urgent and stressful. This is where you’ll use your time to ensure that crises are mitigated or removed before they occur.
Activities in Quadrant III (Urgent & Not Important) may seem urgent but don’t contribute significantly to long-term goals. If possible, delegate or minimize the amount of time spent in this quadrant to free up time for more meaningful and impactful activities.
Quadrant IV (Not Urgent & Not Important) are often time wasters and do not contribute to personal or professional growth. While activities here can give you a much-needed break, eliminate them in order to reclaim valuable for more meaningful pursuits.
Steps to apply my favorite time management tool:
This 2x2 matrix uses The Systems Thinking Approach® to time management. We first determine our vision and long-term goals and then prioritize the activities that move us towards those ends.
I hope you will use this simple and effective tool to increase productivity and achieve a better work-life balance. By stepping back and accessing the urgency and importance of your tasks you can make informed decisions on where to best spend your time and energy. And isn’t that what we all want?
If you’d like to learn more about time management read: Tomatoes and Productivity Spend 20% Less Time at Work & Maintain Productivity 4 questions to decide if a meeting is necessary and 7 things to do before you call a meeting
For more information on life balance investigate: What is retirement lifestyle planning? Why you should say yes to life planning How a Recovering Perfectionist Finds Life Balance 4 techniques to achieve work/life balance–or at least get closer!
Let’s talk about coaching for improved productivity and life balance: Valerie.MacLeod@HainesCentre.com
You can also purchase my life balance ebooks: Get Me Off the Treadmill! and There’re More to Retirement than Golf
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