Posted On February 21, 2014

rail road junction

Leaving this course incomplete nagged at me, as I think of myself as someone who commits and follows through. So I thought about why I didn’t do it… a lot!

For me, the answer lay in Stephen Covey’s wisdom about how we often treat the urgent and the important tasks in our lives. In his book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Covey created a way to view, manage and prioritise our time. He recognised that we spend our time in one of four ways and described characteristics of these activities. His model contains 4 quadrants:

  1. The quadrant of necessity
  2. The quadrant of quality and personal leadership
  3. The quadrant of deception
  4. The quadrant of waste

We often allow learning and career development, which belong in the quadrant of quality and personal leadership (where it is important but not urgent) to be usurped by unnecessary, wasteful and deceptive tasks instead. Yet when we spend time in Quadrant 2, we build for the long term because this is where we build sustainability into our lives and where we accomplish our most cherished goals.

Covey’s model is also valuable for managing and prioritising our day-to-day work. How much of your work day is spent in quadrants of deception or even (gasp!) waste? Reading more-than-necessary blog posts and articles online can help us to hide from or defer our important and urgent challenges. Your inbox is also a classic source of tasks that likely fall into Quadrants 1, 3 or 4.

Let’s commit to spending more time on tasks of personal leadership – where we tackle the big issues or challenging opportunities in our lives. No one is going to nag us to do it. But it will hopefully leave us feeling stretched, fulfilled, and satisfied by our ability to do what matters to each of us without external pressure to make it happen.

Find Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ at your local or online bookshop. You can also learn about his principles with Franklin Covey Australia (

To learn this and other techniques for prioritising and planning your work and broader life, come to TP3’s Time Management course.