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Time Management – The Effective Urgent/Important Grid

Updated on April 21, 2015

Time Management – The Effective Urgent/Important Grid

Your ability to manage your time effectively has a direct bearing on your life. Successful people manage their time very well. The urgent/important matrix is a powerful time management tool that helps you prioritize and figure out which of your activities are important, and which ones are just distractions and best avoided. Using it enables you to get past the natural tendency to focus only on the urgent tasks at all times. Doing this keeps you in a constant state of hurry, leaving you with no time to work on what is truly important.

The tool uses a simple grid that defines tasks as per their urgency and importance.

  • First Quadrant - URGENT and IMPORTANT (Crises)
  • Second Quadrant - NON-URGENT and IMPORTANT (Goals and Planning)
  • Third Quadrant - URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT (Interruptions)
  • Fourth Quadrant - NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT (Distractions)

Important tasks are those that often require some amount of organization, pre-planning and initiative. Urgent tasks on the other hand are those that cause us to stop whatever we are doing currently, and focus on that. Let us take a detailed look at the different quadrants.

First quadrant

Two types of activities fall in this quadrant - the ones that you have left until the last minute, and the ones that were unexpected. While there is nothing much that you can do about the latter, last minute activities can be avoided by proper planning and doing things on time.

Some of the tasks that belong to this quadrant include deadlines, urgent meetings, pressing problems, crises and so on. When we live our life mostly in this quadrant, we end up feeling stressed and burnt out. Reduce the time spent in this quadrant by careful planning, delegating and prioritizing.

Second quadrant

The activities in this quadrant help us move towards our goals and generally include planning, risk-assessment, relationship and team building, and even fitness and recreational activities that help us maintain balance in our lives.

When we spend a lot of time in this quadrant, we have lesser troubles later on. We can stay relaxed, and feel in control for the most part. This works very well for our careers. It is crucial to maximize the time spent in this quadrant. Planning and preparing beforehand goes a long way towards saving time and effort in the long run.

Third quadrant

The tasks that fall into this quadrant take our focus away from the important activities. They are generally reactive in nature and can include things like answering your phone, attending unimportant meetings, chatting with people and so on.

When we live life in this quadrant for the most part, we tend to feel stuck, out of control, stressed out and the feeling that we are not getting anywhere. Reduce the time spent in this quadrant by prioritizing your activities and focusing on the most important tasks first. Identify your patterns and come up with an action plan to take care of it.

Fourth quadrant

These activities are distractions and include excessive TV, internet surfing and all other activities that makes us waste time, avoid important work and leave use tired. Agreed it is not possible to focus on work at all times and well, distractions are necessary too, but check the time you are spending doing all these activities. You might be shocked when you see the results.

The secret of time management is to complete the important tasks before they become urgent. Become aware of your distractions and interruptions and minimize the time you waste on them. This will help you manage your time in a manner that enables you to complete your tasks in a relaxed and enjoyable manner.


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