First things first – A Great Time Management Lesson

I cannot agree more with Stephen Covey after I read his book “First things first” especially when he explains about 2 x 2 matrix with classification under Important & Urgent tags. This is also called as urgency/importance matrix or time management matrix or time leadership matrix.



In Importance angle, a task can be considered either Important or Not so Important. In Urgency perspective, it can be Urgent or Not So Urgent. Once a task added in our list, we start classifying it in these 2 perspective. It is not always true that one task will remain in the same quadrant throughout the life – priority changes and hence quadrant it holds changes.

First quadrant holds tasks that are “Important & Urgent”, we will do it for sure immediately. Example: Customer issue, heart attack.

Second quadrant is for tasks that are “Important & Not So Urgent”, this is where things lies for long time due to procrastinating behavior. Actually, we need to take real care of this area as we may sit longer time on these till it get real urgent. Example: exercise, medical checkup, Insurance plans, Pest control in home

Third quadrant is for those activities that are “Urgent but not so Important”. Due to its urgency, we tend to finish them up as soon as first quadrant activities are completed. Example: emails & phone calls, employee interruption chats

Fourth quadrants are time wasters tasks which are “Not so Urgent & Not so Important” ones like TV, movies, facebook. They are generally easier to do and have less stress associated with them. While enjoyable these tasks do not move you towards your goals.

Main idea in this model is to work proactively on important things with some good breathing time i.e. in quadrant 2. Working in quadrant 1 is stressful, but it is not so in quadrant 2. We need to be careful in clearing of quadrant 2 tasks & in case they are not handled properly they can produce many quadrant 1 tasks that makes life more hectic.

Use best judgment based on your experience & reduce time spent on quadrant 3 & 4 that gives enough time for us to concentrate on quadrant 2 activities. Best method to evaluate quadrant 3 activities are ROI. Ask “What return I get if I spent so much of time in this task?”. Trash those activities classified as quadrant 4 – never bring them back.

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