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Wanna Take a Quantum Leap?

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Wanna Take a Quantum Leap in the Effectiveness Department?

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“What one thing could do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life?”

Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Are you making time in your day to get your most important – to YOU – task/s done? 

In a recent blog, “First Things First” about Stephen Covey’s classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” I wrote about how when we take the time to figure out what our core values are—what we are doing here and why—then it becomes significantly easier to determine what really needs to get done in our day…and prioritize accordingly.

In this blog, I will delve into another suggestion by Covey that can help us ensure we DO stay on track with our priorities—what really matters to us—and not waste too much precious time and energy on tasks and activities that may demand our immediate attention but are NOT important.

“Time management is really a misnomer. The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”

Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

If you have read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you may recall the “Time Management Matrix”: a diagram of a square that is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant explains the type of task we are spending our time doing.

The Four Quadrants:

Quadrant I: Urgent and important

Quadrant II: Important but not urgent

Quadrant III: Urgent but not important

Quadrant IV: Not urgent and not important

Ideally, Quadrant II is where we need to be spending the bulk of our lives…if we are striving to become the best possible version of ourselves, develop meaningful relationships, accomplish the work we are here to do (and enjoy the process), and live a life we love.

Time Management Matrix, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

“Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management.”

Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

What type of tasks & activities are in Quadrant II?

“Quadrant II matters,” explains Covey, “deal with things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventative maintenance, preparation—all those things we know we need to do, but seldom get around to doing because they aren’t urgent.”

What constitutes “Urgent Matters?”

There are, of course, genuinely urgent matters that do need to be dealt with immediately. And many people work in occupations which require them to deal consistently with urgent and important matters.

But for those of us who don’t have deal with genuinely urgent and important matters and crises throughout our day, we need to get really clear on the other type of urgent matters: the unimportant ones.

“Urgent matters are usually visible,” explains Covey. “They press on us; they insist on action. They’re often popular with others. They’re usually right in front of us. And often they are pleasant, easy, and fun to do. But so often, they are unimportant.”

Perhaps social media, texts and e-mails ring a bell (sometimes literally)?

Importance, on the other hand,” Covey continues, “has to do with results. If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals.

Reacting versus Acting

“We react to urgent matters,” says Covey. “Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity. We must act to seize opportunity, to make things happen.”

Many people spend much of their day reacting to unimportant matters versus taking proactive action on important matters. Click To Tweet

“To paraphrase Peter Drucker,” Covey explains, “effective people are not problem-minded, they are opportunity-minded. They feed opportunities and starve problems. They think preventatively. They have genuine Quadrant I crises and emergencies that require their immediate attention, but the number is relatively small.”

I Really Try to Live in Quadrant II – How About You?

It has taken me thirty years to figure this out (developing systems that work for me through trial & error), but for the majority of my days now, Quadrant II tasks and activities are how I spend my time.

Here’s a small but significant example of how spending time in Quadrant II (preparation) is working for me:

For years, I would write the first draft of my weekly blog on a Monday. Then on Tuesday, I would edit it, post it, and set it up to go out to my e-mail subscribers on Wednesday. This worked okay…

But if other pressing tasks things came up or there was a holiday Monday, etc then I had to bump the writing of the first draft to Tuesday, which meant I had to edit it, post it and set it up to go out to e-mail subscribers on Wednesday morning. This meant I wasn’t able to work on other higher priority writing tasks (bigger projects) on Wednesday morning.

This also meant that my finished blog on Wednesday wasn’t as polished as it could be because I had left no wiggle room. This meant that I wasn’t sending out my absolute best work…which meant my readers weren’t getting the very best blog I was capable of writing because I was rushing the process.

In other words, I had made an “important but not urgent” task an urgent task. As a result, sometimes my blogs were going out into the world when they weren’t as strong as they could be.

So how did I solve this problem?

I made a very simple (and easy) tweak to my work schedule that proved to be very effective in terms of reducing my stress level AND increasing the quality of my work. I pushed the whole blog-writing system back a few days and started writing the first draft the week before. This meant that when Monday (or Tuesday) rolled around, all I had to do was give the ready-to-post blog one last proof, then post it and set it up to go out on Wednesday.

This tiny tweak was a gamechanger. My blogs became stronger and more concise because I wasn’t writing to such a tight deadline (I don’t write well under pressure…never have). Plus, having the weekend to mull the blog over left time for any additional insights that I could easily add in (and/or notice any extraneous content I could cut).

Not surprisingly, I am also enjoying the blog-writing process far more. And my readers, of course, are getting higher quality blogs.

Spending the bulk of my time in Quadrant II is proving to be extremely beneficial to my work, my sanity, my stress level, and my overall life enjoyment. Click To Tweet

Putting the time into my work tasks BEFORE they become urgent is a far more effective strategy for me.

Same goes for my bigger writing projects as well leisure activities, such as planning a trip. By taking the time to break large projects (that require many steps) down into manageable bite-sized tasks, then setting aside small chunks of time to work on those tasks, I am getting an awful lot more important work done (i.e. I am more effective) and I am enjoying doing the tasks much more than when I was leaving them to the last minute.

How about you? 

In the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Covey asks this powerhouse question: “What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life?

“Quadrant II activities have that kind of impact,” he explains. “Our effectiveness takes quantum leaps when we do them.”

What small but significant tweak could you make that would catapult you to the next level? Click To Tweet
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Related blogs by Maryanne

First Things First – Are You an Effective Manager of Your…Self?

Hey Busy Bee – How Productive ARE You in That Little Hive of Yours?

Process This – Why Focusing on Process Versus Completion Leads to Better Results

Maryanne Pope is the author of “A Widow’s Awakening.” She also writes screenplays, playscripts and blogs. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and a Director with the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive Maryanne’s blog, “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” please subscribe here.

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2 thoughts on “Wanna Take a Quantum Leap?”

  1. I thank you for this
    I am now somewhat settled in Nanaimo and after your message I pledge to go through at least one box a day!!!!
    Maryanne the Guardian Angel. 💕. Louise

  2. Right on!! And I would love to come visit you in Nanaimo! Let’s set up a time to visit once you get a bit more settled in…and a few more boxes unpacked 🙂

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