‘First Things First’ is the habit of organizing activities around goals and priorities, rather than managing time. Okay, but how do we focus on priorities, when our lives are full of urgencies and distractions? It starts with a model:
Every action has two drivers; namely, urgency and importance. If we put urgency and importance on separate vectors, they are the backbone of Steven Covey’s four-quadrant model:
Quadrant One actions are both urgent and important. You must do them immediately because delays have serious consequences. For example, if your baby has a high fever, you must look after your baby now! The fever is urgent and very important. Yes, urgent and important issues are unavoidable, but many of us spend all our time in Quadrant One, leaving no time for long-term goals and values. Effectiveness means shrinking the size of Quadrant One.
Quadrant Two is the heart of powerful leadership. These tasks are critical to long-term goals and values, such as: building meaningful relationships, writing mission statements, exercising, learning new skills, planning, and true recreation. Inherently, we know Quadrant Two is crucial, but this quadrant is neglected because we waste time in Quadrants Three and Four.
Quadrant Three is the zone of urgent yet petty things. These tasks feel important because they matter to someone. Nevertheless, they are irrelevant to your long-term goals. Quadrant three includes shallow relationships, aimless meetings, most incoming calls, and dumb reports.
Quadrant Four is a pure waste of time: This includes trivial discussions, busy (but meaningless) work, redundant emails, gossip, checking cell phones every 5 minutes, listening to perennial complainers, surfing the Internet, reading junk mail and so forth. (more…)