Quadrant II Living: Time Management = Important vs. Urgent

Quadrant II Living: Time Management = Important vs. Urgent

In this day and age of “connectivity”, we are constantly distracted. How do we overcome this? On page 151 of the award-winning book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, written by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, he reveals the secret to successful time management skills. This is referred to as “Quadrant II” living. The key to balance lies in this simple but extremely useful tool.

In the corporate world there is a matter that used to appear in a job interviews: the sense of urgency. Do you have it? The inevitable answer is yes, of course. As we always must be aware of urgencies, then everything becomes urgent, and we become a kind of waiter doing juggling with the trays without having a pretty clear idea of which table we must be serving first. If we are lucky and pay attention then we develop the intuition and we can do some classification, if you are lucky, otherwise you prioritize according how loud your boss or your customers yells at you. This means there is another variable, and is the importance.

A tool that has helped me in the last few years to classify the day by day tasks is the IMPORTANCE/URGENCY MATRIX. Don’t worry, you won´t have to chose between the red pill or the blue pill.


Dr. Covey was not the first to focus on this concept; it was implemented the first time by former president  Dwight David Eisenhower during the WWII campaign.

Eisenhower’s matrix looks like this:


Dr. Covey’s looks like this:covey-quadrant-2-time_management_matrix

Now, how we can implement this on a daily basis? There are easy steps:

  1. Use an Excel sheet and fill it up with tasks that need attention. Or use a piece of paper and pen and write it down!
  2. Next, pin this somewhere prominent in your workspace so that you can see it all throughout the day. This will help remind you to focus on what needs to be focused on.

NOTE: Do this on a daily basis, first thing, ten minutes before you start working or even looking at your email. Be sure to include unresolved issues from the day prior.

  • The important thing is you can see it throughout the work day and check out the “dones” and the “pendings”. Of course, something “important” can become “not importan”t or vice versa according the business dynamic of how the day unfolds.
  • As any new habit at the beginning it´ll take us more than 10 minutes, but since I use this tool, it has never took me more than 20 minutes. The gaining or focus in the day work has always been superior to the time invested. Once you gain the experience it´ll be only a few minutes.
  • The time gained during the day vs. the time spent planning the day is quite substantial. It will help in so many ways, you will be stunned.

An example of any day could be this: quadrant-2-daily

Once you get used to working with this matrix you can also add personal tasks that always are going to be there, but you don´t include them in your daily list so as to not make noise with your job. Come on, it´s time for your annual visit to the dentist and that´s not something you can skip (your teeth are important too, and not only because your nice smile), or that noise in the car in every bump of the road it´s not going to disappear by itself.

Also, as remote designers, our work is at home and still some people think: That’s not really working! Well I can assure you, it is. The distraction factor is heightened at home by several multipliers. Maybe you have some “extras” like picking up the kids at the soccer or the school or fixing that outlet in the living room. Then with a mix matrix you can establish an order between your personal life and your work without interfering in none of them.

This the way I have used and has gave me excellent results. I hope it can bring some improvements to your everyday tasks too.

How have you used this matrix? What ways has it helped you?

Javier Dominguez – Design Trainee

Gould Design, Inc

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