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Why focusing on the Important and not urgent raises your energy

Many business owners who we talk to have the challenge of handling burn out or overwhelm, both of which are a result of continuous firefighting and reacting to the day-to-day pressures of building and growing a business.

What many business owners require is a simple model to know when they are being effective versus just wasting precious time on the the trivial. Writing out daily ‘ToDo’ lists just does not cut it these days for them, no matter how many ‘ToDos’ they get through.

The time management matrix that Stephen Covey of Franklin Covey produced, taken from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a very direct and simple model. You as a business owner or CEO can get back precious time, control, and energy working within his model of focusing on your top priorities and what is actually important, as opposed to over-planning less important activities.

The image attached to this article spells it out well. We’ve taken it from Franklin Covey. Here is a
quick review of the 4 quadrants based on the percentage of time spent in them:

Quadrant 1 – where many business owners and managers spend most of their time. It’s both urgent AND important. It deals with significant results that require immediate attention. In many cases, it is “crisis” or “problem” centered. Too much time in this quadrant can end up consuming your time and energy, such as when you become a “deadline driven producer”. The more you live in this quadrant, the more you get consumed by it, until your energy gets swamped and you get burnt out, leading to suffering from low energy and even poor health. So the only way to get some relief once this happens is to move into Quadrant 4.

Quadrant 4 – the place where we tend to avoid responsibility and avoid important activities. If one stays in this quadrant for too long it leads to living an irresponsible life, no business momentum and hardly any real results. Yet it is a quadrant for many who feel overwhelmed and stressed out and it’s their ‘go to’ place to deal with the stresses of work and life.

Quadrant 3 – People who live in this quadrant for too long can be deluded into thinking they are actually in Quadrant 1. Here they spend most of their time reacting to things, getting distracted, and the urgency of their work is based on the expectations of others. People who stay in quadrant 3 or 4 for too long end up running ineffective lives and their business gets sabotaged. They experience low levels of energy, focus, and reduced motivation to get bigger results.

Quadrant 2 – Quadrant 2 is the heart of effective management. It deals with key business growth issues such as planning, getting clear on an overall mission, self-care, building relationships and systems for your business. It’s the quadrant where you move from being “problem-focused” to “opportunity-focused”.

Moving more into Quadrant 2 – To be an effective leader every effort has to be made to spend more time in Quadrant 2. The first step is to move out of Quadrants 3 and 4 as and when you can. This means taking a disciplined approach to set clear and firm boundaries with others and with yourself.

Learn to say “No” to most of what is happening in Quadrants 3 and 4. Delegate wherever you possibly can, so you can free up your energy and time on activities that fit within Quadrant 2. You ideally want to be able to say “Yes” to activities in Quadrant 2 because they are both Important and Not Urgent, allowing you to do your best STRATEGIC thinking and planning.


Ask and answer these Quadrant 2 Questions:

“What one thing could I do (that I am not doing now) that if I did on a regular basis would make a tremendous positive difference in my personal life?”

“What one thing in my business or professional life would bring similar results?”

Consider creating a weekly plan for your key goals and priorities, rather than just activities. Focus on taking action on these key goals and priorities. Book those priority and related tasks a week ahead in your agenda and do whatever it takes to make sure you take action on them! Review your weekly plan for a few minutes each day at the end of the day to ensure you are focused on those goals and key priorities for the next day.

This article touches the surface, but it’s a great start to getting focused and getting your control and energy back. Just being aware of the 4 Quadrant Model and which Quadrant you are spending time in helps you gain awareness of what will produce results and what will slow you down or stop you.

When you choose to boost your productivity and effectiveness levels even more, it pays to have an ongoing accountability partner so that you follow through on your vision, goals, and priorities.

Leave us a comment on this page to let us know what ONE thing you can concentrate on eliminating this week from Quadrants 1, 3 & 4 and how you will instead add time spent in Quadrant 2 to improve your energy, mood, and feeling effective. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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