While teaching self-leadership to our Emerge leadership development group on Sunday evening the 4 quadrants of important and urgent came up.
The concept is simple. It’s about the activities in our lives that are important or urgent.
Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of our goals, whether these are professional or personal. Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals.
So we end up doing things that are either
1 Important and Urgent
These sorts of activities demand our attention now and are important to get done. Fire-fighting and urgent problem solving. Quadrant 1 includes things like dealing with your child’s bleeding finger, sweeping up the broken glass on the floor, meeting that deadline at work. Are there things that you could delegate or get others to help with?
2 Important but not urgent
Quadrant 2 are things that don’t shout do me now, but will make a difference long term. Steven Covey used the Biblical idea of “sharpen the saw” from Ecclesiastes 10:10 to talk about this. Important but not urgent activities sharpen ours saw so we can do what we want to do better.
Physical exercise, getting enough sleep, spiritual disciplines like prayer and studying the Bible, working on professional development. Languages students learning vocabulary.
3 Urgent but not important
This is often called the quadrant of deception – looking at email too often, attending meetings that serve no purpose, dealing with other people’s emergencies that aren’t yours.
4 Not important or urgent
These are the total time wasters, that achieve no purpose whatsoever. Procrastinating!
When we lack self awareness, we play around in 3 and 4.
Life lived well focuses on 2 and manages 1! We need to make important but not urgent activities a focus, before they become urgent!