Life lessons have a genius to them, particularly the ones that won’t go away, those that clamor for continued attention, that are insistent upon our time.
One such lesson for me has been the differences between what I consider to be urgent and what I consider to be important. And when a situation is both, or neither.
I am a fire – put – outer, so I respond well and expediently to urgent.
Steven Covey, in his books The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First advocates the use of four quadrants to determine what is urgent and/or important so that we may decide with intention what deserves priority status and what can wait.
Let us explore this further. Below find Steven Covey’s information as shared on Sid Savara’s blog:
Not setting priorities is one of the 7 reasons people fail.
Here’s a picture and a brief overview.
- In Quadrant 1 (top left) we have important, urgent items – items that need to be dealt with immediately.
- In Quadrant 2 (top right) we have important, but not urgent items – items that are important but do not require your immediate attention, and need to be planned for. This quadrant is highlighted because Covey emphasizes this is the quadrant that we should focus on for long term achievement of goals
- In Quadrant 3 (bottom left) we have urgent, but unimportant items – items which should be minimized or eliminated. These are the time sucks, the “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” variety of tasks.
- In Quadrant 4 (bottom right) we have unimportant and also not urgent items – items that don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and also should be minimized or eliminated. These are often trivial time wasters.
Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent and Not Important
Clearly, not urgent, not important – and an obvious time waster. Other time wasters include:
- Mindless web browsing
- Too much television/channel surfing for the sake of channel surfing
Quadrant 3 – Urgent and Not Important
My favorite examples, though I could have picked out more –
Other “Urgent” tasks that add little to no value
- Phone calls that are off topic
- Email that you have to reply to right away or it loses value (“Do you want some donuts? I have some in my office!”)
Quadrant 2 – Not Urgent And Important
Your overall health is something you may take for granted today, and may not see urgency in dealing with it – but long term, we know it’s of supreme importance.
There are some other important, yet not urgent, things that fall into this quadrant as well:
- Reviewing your career path
- Maintaining relationships with family/friends
Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important
Perhaps not entirely rational, but at least her priorities are in order. Other examples:
- Family Emergencies
- Real, hard deadlines for important projects
Whew, A lot to take in and I don’t find the situations that real-life presents as easy to organize into quadrants. I get caught up in urgent-not important and in not urgent-important (quadrants 3 and 2 respectively). Stuff like completing all the items and phone calls on my ‘to do’ list so I can cross them out instead of giving an important person attention. Or thinking that not urgent but important means it must be done NOW, instead of quite the opposite. None of these decisions come from a callous heart, I am the too-sensitive empath, remember? For me there is a correlation between lots to do and anxiety. I do not (without mindful work) peek through the anxiety to prioritize. Mistakenly, everything seems of equal consequence until complete.
I know – and I’m not proud of it. I admit to being knocked on the head, hard, a few times by my surrounding circumstances in order to remember what is what.
The good news is I’m learning and I’m better than I was decades ago.