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Urgency vs. Importance — Covey
Source: Michael Olpin, Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

Covey also focuses on the ability to distinguish between the urgent and the important. We may be busy working as hard as we can only to find that at the end of the day we feel unfulfilled.

This is because we put the urgent, those things demanding our attention in the moment, before the important — the things that would make a difference long-term.

Urgency seems to control our lives.

The only way to truly master our time is to organize our schedule each day to spend the majority of our time doing things that are important rather than urgent. This is the key to doing first things first. If urgency is what is driving you, you are not paying attention to the important things.

Quadrant 2 activities in the Activity Matrix are the important activities. These should be our first things.

Activity Matrix

Quadrant 1 - Urgent & Important

Pressing Problems
Deadline-Driven Projects, meetings, preparations

Quadrant 2 - Important, Not Urgent

Values clarification
Relationship building
True recreation

Quadrant 3 - Urgent, But Not Important

Interruptions, some phone calls
Some mail, some reports
Some meetings
Many proximate, pressing matters
Many popular activities

Quadrant 4 - Not urgent, Not Important

Some phone calls
Time wasters
“Escape” activities

In our planning time, rather than first listing all of the “things to do,” Covey suggests that we should first ask ourselves the more important questions. As we do this, we find ourselves doing more things that are in quadrant two and as a result, we live according to those most important things.

When you plan your days and weeks, you can ask yourself some additional questions (Question list to print out separately.):

  1. What do I want to be and do and contribute in my life?
  2. What three or four things are most important to me?
  3. What are my long range goals?
  4. Who are my relationships that are most important?
  5. What are my main responsibilities?
  6. What contributions would I like to make?
  7. What are the principles that I value?
  8. What feelings do I want to experience in life? (Peace, confidence, happiness, meaning.)
  9. How would I spend the coming week if I only had 6 months to live?

The answers to these questions determine the more appropriate activities on which to spend our time during the day.

These are Quadrant 2 questions.

Identify Roles

Another way to increase our feeling of order and balance involves focusing on our roles in life. Much pain comes from the realization that we are succeeding in one role at the expense of another. Too often we hear of people who are very successful in their business life but they encounter problems with their family life or their spiritual life.

A holistic view of life involves a balance between the various dimensions of life including the physical, the social, the mental/emotional, and the spiritual. Our roles tend to help us fulfill the needs of these dimensions. Our roles give us a sense of wholeness of a quality of life.

These roles may include:

  1. family,
  2. personal,
  3. business,
  4. relationships, and
  5. community.

When we determine our roles, we can ask ourselves the quadrant 2 questions for each of our roles.