One of the big questions for all of us is “How do we get a better handle on how we use our time?” I have found Stephen Covey’s IMPORTANCE / URGENCY chart very helpful in giving me a clearer picture of my own activities and some of the motivations behind them. It separates what we do into four different categories, pictured on the left.
Through this diagram Covey challenges us to ask ourselves two questions about all of our activities: (1) “How IMPORTANT is this activity?” and (2) “How URGENT is this activity?”
We all know we should be spending most of our time doing the things that are important. These are the things that fit with God’s call on our life: our vision and mission, and our long term goals. The difficulty is that we are continually subject to what is urgent! Sometimes we are driven by urgency to complete tasks that are important (Quadrant 1), but because of the time pressure that motivated it, it may turn out hurried and not result in the best we can do. Other times we get caught up by urgency and end up wasting time with things that aren’t really that important, at least not for us (Quadrant 3). Often these are the things that are important to other people. Their urgency pressures us to use our time.
On the other hand, sometimes we neglect things that actually are very important (Quadrant 2) because we are too busy doing other things and there’s no urgency driving us. The biggest waste of time are the things that aren’t urgent or important (Quadrant 4).
Here are some specific examples give for each Quadrant
MOST OF THE BIG ROCKS THAT WE WANT TO MAKE TIME FOR WILL REQUIRE THAT WE SPEND MORE TIME IN QUADRANT TWO
- “What are some of the examples from your life that fit into each quadrant?”
- “What are some specific changes that you could make in Quadrants 3 and 4 that would give you more time (especially) for Quadrant 2?”