Priorities Quadrant

I’m not a fan of the concept of time management. In the Go Creative! Method, time is created, not managed, but I have of course picked up great tools over the years from time managers.

One of my favorite is Stephen Covey’s Priorities Quadrant, which encourages you to think about your weeks and days according to what’s most important to you and what will have the most meaningful results.

(It’s introduced as part of Habit 3, “Put first things first,” in his great book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

David Gray, of Gamestorming, offers it in the form of a game here.

Travelling clockwise around the square:

Quadrant 1: Important, urgent activities: these need to be dealt with immediately.

Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent activities: these are important but are not calling for your immediate attention. This quadrant is focussed on long-term creative intentions and is where a CE must stay, as much as possible.

Quadrant 4: Unimportant, not urgent activities: these don’t have to be done anytime soon, add little or no value, and should be minimized or eliminated. Busy work, social media time wastes, tired brain activity….

Activities that “add little or no value” do not, of course, include intentional creative rest and creative play. These are due to activities, super important, but not urgent. And therefore inclined to be neglected.

Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not important activities: these also should be minimized or eliminated. These are the ones that confuse us most. Unnecessary meetings and interruptions from others. A sudden cry from a forum on Facebook. An email that gets us busy doing something that doesn’t matter very much to us. What’s probably at the end of a ringing phone.

Perhaps more surprisingly, you should also minimize the time you spend in Quadrant I. This is about how you shape your day. If you find yourself primarily in this quadrant, dealing with crises and firefighting.

We’re far more likely to deal with urgent activities, regardless of importance. There they are, right there in front of us, probably making noise.

“Urgent matters are usually visible,” Covey writes. “They press on us; they insist on action. They’re often popular with others.. and often they are pleasant, easy, fun to do. But so often they are unimportant!”

Quadrant 2, where the deep work happens, doesn’t have the same immediate consequences and payoffs. Q2 activities are challenging, and may well stir subconscious fear, and so we’re less likely to attend to them.

For example, the one change most CEs could make to how they use their time that would have a big impact on their results would be to build relationships with others in their micro-niche, especially influencers.

Yet most CEs devote less than 5% of their time to this important Q2 activity. It’s much easier to chat with pals on Facebook, or do busy work with your VA.

Try out the Priorities Quadrant to analyze your day today. Let me know how it goes.

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