A Powerful Way to Think About Time Management


In his best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey explains a very powerful time management methodology that centres around categorising tasks and activities as either Urgent / Not Urgent and Important / Not Important.

 In this video I share his “4 Quadrants of Time Management” approach and how to use this in a practical way so that you can be more effective in your business, spend time on the right activities and achieve far more in the same amount of time.

Firstly, here is a definition of Urgent and Important…

Urgent tasks and activities are time critical where someone is waiting for this task to be actioned, whereas Not Urgent tasks have no fixed timeline or deadline and no-one will really notice if they don’t get done.

Important activities are those things that are helping you to achieve your short and long-term goals, while Not Important activities aren’t and avoiding these will have little (or no) impact on your long-term goals.

These 4 factors combine into the following 4 Quadrants:

  1. Urgent and Important. These are time-critical tasks that have a direct impact on the delivery of your service or product and will affect your customers if they are not attended to. Examples include: customer deadlines, customer requests that need responding to or actioning, crisis management, fixing things so that the delivery process can continue, etc.
  2. Not Urgent but Important. This is a critical area and activities that fit into this quadrant are easy to put off but they will have a detrimental affect on your business if they are not done. The affect may not be immediate but if you don’t spend enough time in this area then you and your business will suffer. Activities in this area are what people normally refer to as working ON your business, and include things like: planning, team meetings, training, marketing, building relationships, developing systems, etc.
  3. Urgent but Not Important. These activities make you feel that you need to respond to them quickly but in reality they are not helping you achieve your goals. This is because these activities are normally important to someone else and include things like: requests and interruptions from others, some meetings, some phone calls, sales rep visits, etc. It is easy to get stuck in this quadrant if you are not clear on your goals and you get busy reacting to events and requests. You need to learn to say no to these activities and add them to your “stop doing” list. 
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important. Excessive time spent in this area is unproductive and should be minimised. You need a little bit of downtime but examples of activities that fall into this quadrant include: surfing the net, social media, watching excessive television, etc.

So, the whole idea is to make a list of Quadrant 2 activities that you should be doing and then allocate time in your weekly calendar to do those activities. I can guarantee that you are probably not spending enough time on these activities. The more you prioritise these Quadrant 2 “ON the business” activities, the more effective and successful your business will be and the less time you will be forced to spend on either urgent “crisis” work or urgent wasteful activities.

Our focus with our clients is on Quadrant 2, but whether you work with a Coach, business colleagues or even your team, make sure that you have a way to stay focused on these important business-building activities.