Sunday, August 18, 2013

Staying in Quadrant II

A year ago I trained to be a PYP online workshop leader.  One of the activities we did during training was a time management exercise where we had to categorize the queries we had from participants into 4 different quadrants:  urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, and not urgent and not important.  A good example of something that is urgent and important and needing an immediate solution would be one of the participants not being able to log onto the course.

This model can be applied to our lives as well.  Many of us spend too much of our time in Quadrant I, the urgent and important one.  These tend to be lives dominated by crises and problems and the result of living here is that we become stressed and burnt out.  Of course it is necessary to spend time here "putting out fires", but it's unhealthy for us to spend most of our time doing this.

Other people spend a lot of time working in Quadrant III.  Activities here are often called "busy work" as they include things like answering a ringing phone (which mostly turns out not to be important) or answering message (which are also mostly not important) or writing up reports which end up never seeing the light of day again.  The thing is that people who spend a lot of time here often think they are in Quadrant I, doing important work, but when examined it turns out that most of this work is concerned with the priorities and needs of other people.  Ultimately spending a long time in Quadrant III leads to a very short-term focus and with a feeling of being out of control.

The interesting thing I was reading was that people who spend a lot of their time in Quadrants I and III, tend to spend the rest of their time in Quadrant IV because it is the least stressful of the four quadrants. Most of the time they never get to the things in Quadrant II, which is the most satisfying of all the quadrants.  Effective people tend to stay out of Quadrants III and IV because even though some of these things might be urgent, they are simply not important.  Efficient people also try to do as little as possible in Quadrant I by spending more time in Quadrant II.  Easier said than done, I can hear some people saying!

The difference between people in Quadrant I and II, according to Stephen Covey, is that those in Quadrant I are problem minded and those in Quadrant II are opportunity minded.  The things that make a positive difference to both our personal and professional lives are the things found in Quadrant II.  By focusing in Quadrant II it's possible to prevent some of the crises of Quadrant I.  Quadrant II involves relationship building, planning and recreation.

The only way to make more time for Quadrant II is by taking time from Quadrants III and IV as it's not possible to ignore the urgent and important calls on our time from Quadrant I.  However to say "Yes" to the important things that belong in Quadrant II, you do have to learn to say "No" to other things in other quadrants.  In the chapter Put First Things First, Stephen Covey recommends that you don't simply prioritize what is on your schedule, but start to schedule your priorities.  Schedule in all those Quadrant II activities on a weekly basis first, and you will find you still have plenty of time to schedule in other activities.

So I'm going to give it a try.  Next week my Quadrant II looks like this:
  • night out listening to jazz
  • Hindi lesson
  • massage
  • Godrej Indian Culture Lab event
  • Bollywood dancing class
  • getting ready to go to Singapore for a workshop
Quadrant I looks like this:
  • PD meeting
  • doctor's appointment
  • CPR training
  • coaching training
Everything is scheduled - so let's see how easy it will be staying in Quadrant II.

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