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Have you ever found yourself spinning your wheels? I felt like this the other day when I had been working hard all day doing all sorts of activities but by the end of the day, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much. I didnt feel like I made any real progress that would have make a difference in my life or anyone else’s. A good test of this is when someone asked me what I did yesterday, and I could’t remember what I did. Looking back now, I hadnt planned my day.

In a previous post I described a way to determine how you spend your time. It helps you create a list of the activities you do every day and apply how much time you spend in these activities. Maybe you have a good understanding of how you spend your time but are you spending your time on activities that provide you the best results?

I reference Stephen Covey because his method of determining the most effective use of your time is the best I have found in 20+ years of searching. In his book “First Things First”, Covey determines the most effective activities by using a formula of urgent vs. important.

  • Activities that are important are what you personally value, and contributes to your mission and high-priority goals.
  • Activities that are urgent are what you or other people feel requires your immediate attention.

Covey uses quadrants to illustrate how to categorize activities.

  • Quadrant I (important and urgent): These are activities that are a crisis or are an impending deadline. This is an activity that you must address now. Activities in quadrant I will always happen because we cannot predict the future.
  • Quadrant II (important but not urgent): These activities are time spent in prevention, planning, building relationships, and even recreation. These are activities that help you manage activities in all the other quadrants. The time you spend in quadrant II activities the less time you will spend on a crisis.
  • Quadrant III (not important but urgent): These activities are interruptions, a ringing phone, some routine meetings, or popular activities that are time bound. These activities pull your attention for something happening right now. You may not discover that it is not important until after you are involved in the activity.
  • Quadrant IV (not important and not urgent): These are activities that really don’t add any value. Examples include, trivia, busy work, and escape activities. Don’t confuse these activities with recreation. Recreation can be an important activity to refresh and renew you. Too much recreation can turn in to a quadrant IV activity if you spend too much time on it or if it really doesn’t help provide you energy to do more important activities.

If you did the activity from my previous post, continue in the right column next to each of the activities you do. Label each of the activities with a Q1, Q2, Q3, or Q4 label. Those activities with a Q3 or Q4 label make plans to remove these activities from your day.

If you are serious about being effective, you will spend more than half of your time doing Q2 activities. The rest of your time is in Q1 activities. When you find yourself in a Q3 activity, try to determine quickly if this is important to you or not. Of course spend the least time in Q4 (almost no time here).

Successful people that I know are not spending much time on Q3 and Q4 activities. What activities are you going to remove from your list? Leave a comment here.