Imagine four quadrants. The bottom right quadrant is full of things you do that are not important, and they are not urgent. The bottom left quadrant contains things that are urgent, but they aren’t important. The top left quadrant includes things that are both urgent and important (these are fires, of some kind).
All alone at the top right are the things that you need to do that are not urgent, but they are important. This is where your real work lives.
Lower Right: Not Urgent, Not Important
The time you spend browsing the Internet lives right in this quadrant. But it doesn’t live there alone. An ungodly amount of the emails you have to sort through are not only not urgent, they’re a complete waste of time.
Relationships are important, and you need be human, so some water cooler chatter is necessary. That said, the second fifteen minute block of time you spend talking about nothing belongs here in the lower right. If we’re being honest, some of the meetings required of you might fit here.
Lower Left: Urgent, Not Important
A ringing telephone is urgent, but the call may or may not be important. A lot of your emails may require something of you that is not important to you, but is to another party. If you are addicted to the news, you live in this quadrant, as none of the news is so important that it can’t wait, and most of it doesn’t even need your attention at all.
Most of the time you are interrupted, it is something that is urgent but unimportant. If you live here, you love novelty.
Top Left: Urgent and Important
When your client calls because you and your company are failing to deliver the outcomes you sold, you are in top left. When the dream client you have been pursuing for years finally reaches out to ask you to come meet with them, you are here, too.
When the presentation you put together is due tomorrow and contains a half a dozen typos in it when you get it back from the marketing department, you have an urgent and important matter. This one, likely of your making, gives you one idea of the top left quadrant.
So what fits in the upper right quadrant?
Top Right: Important, Not Urgent
Prospecting. Prospecting belongs in the top right quadrant. Face-to-face sales calls belong here, too. Your personal and professional development initiatives are all upper right quadrant activities and outcomes. Coaching sessions are important, not urgent.
Planning your week is important, but it isn’t urgent (get a free-nine part video series on this upper right activity here). Planning a sales call is important, too (get a free four-part video training on this topic here).
Here’s the rub: The more time you spend in the upper right quadrant, the less time you’ll spend in the upper left quadrant. Where do you get the time to invest in the important and non-urgent? From the lower two quadrants.
As Covey strongly suggested, the quality of your life and your results is determined by where you invest your time. Or where you spend it.
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