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Quadrant Planning — Covey
Source: Michael Olpin, Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

Quadrant Planning, is one of the most popular time management systems today. This method was developed by Stephen Covey and explained in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Quadrant Planning relates to Covey’s third habit of highly successful people called First Things First.

Covey begins this habit by asking the all-important questions, “What are the things that matter most to you?” Are these things receiving the time and emphasis you should be giving them? Covey feels that traditional time management methods don't bring peace and fulfillment because we don't put the most important things (first things) first. He compels us to assess what our first things are with some thoughtful questions:

  • Are the things that are less important in your life receiving the most attention?
  • Are too many good things getting in the way of your best?
  • Are you making the tough decision to choose the best over the good?
  • What activities, if you know you did superbly and consistently, would have a significant positive impact on your life?
  • “How many people, on their deathbed, wish they would have spent more time at the office?”

Covey uses the metaphor of the clock and the compass to compare how we manage our life. The clock is a focus on how we spend our time – what we do. This refers to such things as commitments, appointments, schedules – this is management.

The compass involves a focus on how we lead our lives. This includes our values, principles, mission, goals, vision, conscience, and direction – this is leadership. The struggle comes when what we do (the clock stuff) doesn't contribute to what's most important (the compass).

Psychologists tell us that the degree that our daily activities are out of alignment with what matters most to us is directly related to the amount of stress that we feel. We see people recklessly climbing the ladder of success only to realize it is leaning against the wrong wall. We give our attention to the unimportant things.

Covey feels that we should be putting leadership before management. We should first ask ourselves,

Am I doing the right things?

After we have answered this question, we can next ask ourselves,

Am I doing things right?

When we do this, we begin to put our lives in a direction that is much more fulfilling and effective.