Teaching > HP
442 Professional Practices > Time
Urgency vs. Importance — Covey
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
Quadrant 2 activities in the Activity Matrix are the important
activities. These should be our first things.
Quadrant 1 - Urgent
Deadline-Driven Projects, meetings, preparations
Quadrant 2 - Important,
Quadrant 3 - Urgent, But Not Important
Interruptions, some phone calls
Some mail, some reports
Many proximate, pressing matters
Many popular activities
Quadrant 4 - Not urgent, Not Important
Some phone calls
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.):
- What do I want to be and do and contribute in my life?
- What three or four things are most important to me?
- What are my long range goals?
- Who are my relationships that are most important?
- What are my main responsibilities?
- What contributions would I like to make?
- What are the principles that I value?
- What feelings do I want to experience in life? (Peace, confidence,
- How would I spend the coming week if I only had 6 months
The answers to these questions determine the more appropriate
activities on which to spend our time during the day.
These are Quadrant 2 questions.
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
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:
- relationships, and
When we determine our roles, we can ask ourselves the quadrant
2 questions for each of our roles.