Spending More Time in Quadrant II

by on Aug 2, 2015 7:02 PM

By Eileen Nonemaker who is a colleague of Doug Brown at Paradigm Associates LLC.  Doug is an Alliance Partner of Trilogy Partners.


“Things which matter most – Must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” – Goethe


For years I have been a great fan and follower of Stephen Covey. The SevenHabits of Highly Successful People* was first published in 1989 has been published numerous times since. It has been my bible in book form, cassette tapes and now CD’s. Repetition, we know, is one of the best ways to learn – and with career that requires a lot of travel, listening and learning are natural ways to pass the time.


Although learning and practicing all seven habits is important, I find that the one most difficult for many of my coaching clients to practice is Habit #3 – Put First Things First. In order to be successful at Habit #3 Covey stresses how essential and prerequisite Habits 1 and 2 are. Habit #1 – Be Proactive and Habit #2 – Begin with the End in Mind, give us the principles of personal vision and personal leadership. Habit #3 – Put First Things First, gives us the principles of personal management.


Many people struggle with time management and prioritizing, juggling busy personal lives and professional responsibilities, only to miss important meetings and memorable events – feeling frustrated and stressed. What Habit #3 gives us is the ability to understand “Self-management vs Time management”. Habit #3 provides the groundwork for a balanced life.


There are only twenty-four hours in every day and seven days in a week. Understanding that we don’t control time, but we can control how we use that time is key in avoiding the stress of multiple priorities. Having a TO DO list is great, but prioritizing that list is even more important. If we start at the top, we may not get to the more pressing task further down the list. Today, emails, texts and cell calls can totally disrupt our focus, sometimes causing us never get back to our list.


Most business folks have been made aware of the Seven Habits, Habit #3 and the Covey’s Time Matrix** through classes, managers or coaches, but how many actually successfully apply these principles. Many of my coaching clients have difficulty with “time management” and they look to me to help them create a system. Until they understand that it is not “time” but their activities that need management, they will always struggle and be frustrated. Until they learn to take time for themselves to learn and refresh, they will be stressed.


We all know someone like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, always checking their watch and exclaiming. “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!” It is clear that the White Rabbit spends most of his time in Quadrants I or III, where everything is Urgent – whether or not it’s important. Stepping back and really prioritizing our daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly activities, can keep us from reacting to less important matters, saying “no” to things that don’t fit into our purpose, while focusing on those activities that move us forward and give us the greatest reward.


Spending time in Quadrant II means that we are planning, strategizing and being creative. We are doing important things that are not urgent now and very key to our future. If we spend more time in Quadrant II we will eventually spend less time in Quadrant I. This will be saved for truly urgent matters, like a sick parent or child or pressing problems that are unforeseen.


A review of the Time Matrix** and scheduling time for Quadrant II activities will be key in staying out of Quadrants I and III. Habit #3 – Put first Things First. The key is that we need to schedule this time – it just doesn’t happen by itself.


*Covey, Stephen R., The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, The Free Press, New York

**Quadrant I – Urgent & Important; Quadrant II – Important, but Not Urgent; Quadrant III – Urgent, but Not Important; Quadrant IV – Not Urgent & Not Important.