7 Habits of Highly Effective People Time Management Matrix

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We all have the same 24 hours a day. As I always say, time management is not actually time management, but instead priority management. How is it possible to manage the flood of tasks that require our immediate attention? One of the best ways to prioritize your to-do list is by using Stephen Covey’s matrix found below. The idea of using four quadrants to determine the priority of a task was introduced by American keynote speaker Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s system makes use of four different quadrants that allow you to prioritize tasks in relation to their importance and urgency.

As you can see from the graphic below, the time management matrix is separated into four quadrants that are organized by importance and urgency.

7 Habits Time Matrix
Source: Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

The matrix distinguishes between importance and urgency:

  • Important responsibilities contribute to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent responsibilities require immediate attention. These activities are often tightly linked to the accomplishment of someone else’s goal. Not dealing with these issues will cause immediate consequences.

Here’s a summary of the meaning of each quadrant:

  • Quadrant I – important deadlines with high urgency
    The first quadrant contains tasks and responsibilities that need immediate attention.
  • Quadrant II – long-term development and strategizing
    The second quadrant is for items that are important without requiring immediate action. Covey points out that this quadrant should be used for long-term strategizing.
  • Quadrant III – distractions with high urgency
    The third quadrant is reserved for tasks that are urgent, without being important. Covey recommends minimizing or even eliminating these tasks as they do not contribute to your output. Delegation is also an option here.
  • Quadrant IV – activities with little to no value
    The fourth and last quadrant focuses on tasks and responsibilities that do not yield any value—items that are unimportant and not urgent. These time wasters should be eliminated at any costs.

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