As I stated in the last post , productivity is different for different people. You might think that being productive or managing your priorities is doing more, or being busy.

It all depends on how you see it, it is not exclusive to anyone thus the need to manage your priorities.

Some people start their days with to-do lists that keep them busy throughout the day, thereby creating the illusion that everything is important.

Priority and Managing Priorities


When we approach activities in this way, we sometimes lose focus on the things that matter most, hence the reason why we need to learn to prioritise.

The Time Matrix for Managing Priorities

The time matrix is a tool with 4 quadrants that you can use to prioritise tasks. Stephen Covey, the influential management thinker initiated it.

You use each quadrant to organise the tasks you need to do into an order of priority.

Quadrant 1

Contains the important and urgent activities. Covey refers to this as the quadrant of necessity. In this quadrant, you should put any activities that first are important, and then need to be taken care of immediately.

These are urgent and necessary activities such as a project with an immediate deadline, or a crisis. These activities cannot wait.

Quadrant 2

Also called the quadrant of effectiveness contains the important but not urgent activities. This quadrant is typically for tasks and issues centered on planning and preparation. The quadrant also include longer-term strategy, learning, training those who work with you and building relationships with clients and staff.

These activities are critical to the organisation/team, but are not immediately urgent.

Quadrant 3

Is the quadrant where most people end up abusing time. It includes activities that are not important but are urgent.

In this quadrant you have activities that have a semblance of importance and prompt immediate reaction when perhaps they are in fact not very important, and could either wait till later, or might not need doing at all.

These are ‘time-pressured distractions’ i.e. tasks that someone else wants done now, but are not important for you. This quadrant is also called the quadrant of deception.

Quadrant 4

It is for activities or tasks that are not important and not urgent. These activities have no value at all and simply waste time.

We may begin activities here to give us a break from the more important activities. We then end up spending far too much time on them. This is the quadrant of waste.

Using this time matrix helps you to determine which activities are important and need to be done first.

Application Of The Time Matrix



Many of us find ourselves in what is known as The Bermuda Triangle Of Time. This is when we place too much effort on tasks that are in Quadrants 1, 3 and 4. These tasks are driven largely by urgency and neglects Quadrant 2 activities – important but not urgent.

These are usually the critical ones that, when we attend to them first, make sure that all the rest of what we do is in line with the principles we hold most dear, and sometimes even reduce the urgent and important lists by making us more effective.

A good way of deciding what should go into Quadrant 2 is to identify those tasks that you know that if you did them superbly well and consistently, they would yield excellent results.

Those are the tasks that you should attend to first in your planning.

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