Using the Stephen Covey Quadrants to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Table of Contents

Using the Stephen Covey Quadrants to Improve Your Time Management Skills. 1

About the Stephen Covey Time Management Quadrants. 1

The 4 Time Management Quadrants. 1

Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important. 1

Quadrant 2 – Not Urgent but Important. 2

Quadrant 3 – Urgent but not Important. 2

Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent and Not Important. 3

A Summary of the Four Quadrants. 3

People who Focus on Urgent but Less Important Tasks. 3

Implementing the Time Matrix. 4

One Week Tasks. 4

Reassigning Your Present To-do List. 4

Take Away. 5

Did you know that you can achieve much more in a day through practicing the 4 Steven Covey Quadrants? Read on to understand how to go about it. 

About the Stephen Covey Time Management Quadrants

The four Stephen Covey’s quadrants approach is also known as the Eisenhower’s Urgent-Important Principle or Time Management Matrix. It states that you can categorize everything you do, depending on how important and urgent it is. 

Many times, people spend too much time doing urgent things instead of focusing on the crucial tasks. Learning how to differentiate the two is critical. Here is a comprehensive review of the four Covey quadrants as they appear in the 7 habits of highly effective people. 

The 4 Time Management Quadrants

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Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important

Urgent tasks need immediate attention. For example, receiving a phone call can be urgent. Usually, urgent matters are visible tasks that will press you until you take action. Sometimes they can be pleasant, fun, and easy to do. However, many times urgent things can be the least important in your task list. Crucial activities are associated with results. Important matters should play a role in your values, mission, and high preference goals. 

You can divide activities in this quadrant into predictable and non-predictable matters. You can avoid predictable things by developing effective strategies and focusing on their application. Quadrant i should only comprise responsibilities and tasks that need your immediate attention. In this time management matrix, you handle first things first. These can be crucial deadlines and emergencies. In the event of a crisis or pressing problems you may need to reallocate other tasks. 

Quadrant 2 – Not Urgent but Important

While activities in quadrant II may not be urgent, they are important. This quadrant focuses on strategic planning and activities related to education, health, career, and exercise. It also involves activities; like relationship building, long-term goal planning, precautionary maintenance, and composing mission statements. Quadrant II is the hub of robust personal management. 

Spending time on this quadrant has long term importance. It is crucial to invest sufficient time for functions in quadrant 2 to prevent them from transforming into quadrant 1 activities. Balancing activities in this quadrant increases your chances of completing them promptly. 

Quadrant 3 – Urgent but not Important

While activities in this quadrant are urgent, they are not valuable. According to the seven habits of highly effective people, activities in this quadrant could be ego-based but add no value. These activities are barriers that block you from achieving your goals. Where possible, you should either reschedule these activities or delegate them.

If someone forces Quadrant three assignments on you, try to turn down their request politely. If declining is not an option, avoid constant interruptions by allocating timeslots for people that require your assistance. Doing that allows you to address their problems at once without compromising your busy work or suffering burnout.

Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent and Not Important

The final quadrant includes tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Activities in this quadrant are not only time wasters, but they add no value to your day to day life. They are distractors, and you should avoid them as much as you can. Where possible, try and eliminate them from your to-do list. Some of these activities include browsing the internet and social media platforms for no particular reason and watching television for long hours. 

 A Summary of the Four Quadrants

Every person deals with quadrant 1 activities. However, it is worth mentioning that this quadrant can dominate many people, like deadline-oriented producers, problem minded individuals, and crisis managers.

When you spend too much time on Quadrant 1, then your to-do list keeps on growing until it overwhelms you. For example, when an emergency happens, it may hit this group of individuals hard. Before they can find their balance and rise again, another challenge will hit them once more. When the situation becomes unbearable, some people opt to focus on neither urgent nor important tasks in Quadrant 4.

If you were to assess the entire matrix of this group of people you would notice that; they spent up to 90% of their time in the first quadrant and the 10% remaining in the fourth quadrant. It is evident here that such people pay little attention to the second and third quadrant. 

People who Focus on Urgent but Less Important Tasks

Some people invest lots of time on urgent but less important tasks in quadrant III, assuming they are managing roles in quadrant 1. They spend a great deal of time working on urgent things thinking they are crucial as well.

In reality, the urgency of these activities depends on the expectations and priorities of other people. Effective people do not focus on Quadrants three and quadrant IV because they hold no importance. They also narrow down activities in quadrant 1 by investing more time in quadrant 2. 

Implementing the Time Matrix

When using Covey’s quadrants, experts recommend that you should spend more time in quadrant II tasks. Doing so helps you reduce first quadrant activities in the short term or even long term. The goal of using the four Covey quadrants is to determine whether or not specific activities help you achieve your goals.

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Once you identify these tasks, prioritizing activities that may need much of your time should be your next step. Withhold assignments that do not add value to your life until you finish important matters. Covey’s time management matrix has different applications, which include:

One Week Tasks

This time management matrix needs a weekly evaluation. You should have six bear copies of the matrix. Five of them will represent each workday, while you will include your weekly assessment in the sixth copy.

Once each workday ends, you will need to list all activities and the amount of time you spend on them. Once the week ends, you will need to summarize your five working days in a single matrix. Remember to summarize the time spent on each task. Once you outline the week, you can assess how well you spent your time. Determine where you should make changes as well. 

Reassigning Your Present To-do List

You can use the time matrix to reschedule the urgency and importance of your present and future tasks. By sorting and allocating tasks in a suitable grid, you will spot activities that require immediate action with ease. 

Take Away

Stephen Covey Published the seven habits of highly successful people in the late 1980s. However, its strategies to achieve success, such as the Covey quadrants remain relevant to date. 

Using these quadrants enables you to schedule your week based on important activities that will be the most valuable in your endeavors. Read more about time management on our blog.


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covey quadrants, Stephen Covey Quadrants


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