To become highly effective, focus on these activities

coveys quadrnt2

All activities can be classified by its urgency (Urgent or Not Urgent) and by its importance (Important or Not Important).

Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals, whether these are professional or personal.

Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals.

Different combinations create a matrix illustrated above with four quadrants:

Quadrant 1:  Activities that are important and urgent.

For example:

  • Crises
  • Pressing problems
  • Deadline-driven projects
  • Vital customer calls

Quadrant 2:  Activities that are important but not urgent

For example:

  • Planning
  • Capability improvement like reading, learning, and education
  • Recognizing new opportunities
  • Eating healthy and exercising to avoid future health issues
  • Preventative maintenance on your home or car
  • Forming bonds and strengthening relationships with your friends and family
  • Self renewal and spending time on things that inspire and uplift you

Quadrant 3: Activities that are urgent but not important

For example:

  • Interruptions, some callers
  • Some emails, some reports
  • Some meetings
  • Proximate, pressing matters
  • Popular activities

Quadrant 4: Activities that are not urgent and not important

For example:

  • Trivial busy work
  • Some emails
  • Some phone calls
  • Workplace gossip
  • Time wasters
  • Lots of pleasant activities
  • Mindless web surfing
  • Watching too much TV

Inevitably, there is a tendency to focus on things that are urgent – and often the urgent things are also important. However,  to be effective, you must create time to focus on important things before they become urgent. In other words, you must focus more on Quadrant 2 activities.

Sometimes this just means doing things earlier. It could also mean committing  time to processes that enable you to do things more quickly or more easily, or ensure that they get done automatically. Examples would be clearing your desk and doing the filing, creating a daily to-do list (and a discipline to use it) or investing in new software.

To start focusing on Quadrant 2, you need to free up the time you usually spend in other quadrants. Taking the following steps will help:

  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 4 and STOP DOING THEM!
  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 3 and stop doing them too. This is more difficult as it involves saying NO to people.

You should now have time to spend in Quadrant 2 – important but not urgent activities. Spending more time here will lead to the following results:

  • Vision, perspective
  • Balance
  • Discipline
  • Control
  • Few crises

Spending more time on activities that are important and urgent (Quadrant 1) will lead to the following results:

  • Stress
  • Burn-out
  • Crisis management
  • Always putting out fires

Spending more time on activities that are not important but urgent (Quadrant 3) will lead to the following results:

  • Short term focus
  • Crisis management
  • Reputation – chameleon character
  • See goals and plans as worthless
  • Feel victimized, out of control
  • Shallow or broken relationships

Spending more time on activities that are not important and not urgent (Quadrant 4) will lead to the following results:

  • Total irresponsibility
  • Fired from jobs
  • Dependent on others or institutions for basics

How we spend our time on a daily basis is what culminates to our yearly achievements. Sadly, many of us spend a big portion of our time in Quadrant 3 confusing the urgent things for the Important things.

To be more effective this year, spend more time in Quadrant 2 – activities that are important and critical to the achievement of your goal even though they don’t appear urgent.

Perhaps, they may include any of the following: playing with your children, taking time to get medical checkups, spending quality time with your spouse, writing that report when there is no deadline, reading a self-help book, taking classes outside your job to advance your career, etc.


Allen, D. (2001) “Getting Things Done, The Art Of Stress Free Productivity”, Penguin Books.

Covey S., (1989) “7 Habits of highly Effective people”, WS Bookwell.

Robbins, A., (1992) “Awaken the Giant Within”. Free Press.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *