“We live in a time pressured world where it is common to have multiple overlapping commitments that all require immediate attention now. How can one manage the flood of responsibilities, do excellent work and maintain a positive frame of mind?” (Stephen Covey)
The Importance-Urgency Mapping is an effective method for organizing priorities. It is a two-dimensional chart that is used to prioritize work activities as well as personal activities. All tasks are evaluated in terms of importance and urgency. They are then sorted in the appropriate quadrants of the importance-urgency matrix.
The importance-urgency matrix consists of four quadrants:
- Quadrant I is for the important deadlines that require immediate attention.
- Quadrant II is for activities that are important and not urgent.
- Quadrant III is for activities that are not really important, but someone wants it now.
- Quadrant IV is for activities that are neither important nor urgent.
Quadrant I is for important and urgent matters. These are the necessity type activities that require immediate attention. A problem may arise when activities become urgent due to procrastination or poor planning. It is recommended therefore to be proactive to avoid taking more time and resources resolving these issues. Some examples of activities that are found in this quadrant are deadlines at work, medical emergencies, performing urgent repairs and paying urgent bills.
Quadrant II is the area that you should spend most of your time on. These often are planning, personal development and leadership driven activities. Quadrant II is exceptionally important when it comes to personal growth. These activities are often under used. All people of great achievement such as athletes find time for this quadrant. Finding ways to expand these activities is a common outcome from using this Matrix.
Activities in Quadrant III are unimportant and are done with a sense of urgency. Most of these activities are draining and time consuming. Examples of activities that are found in this quadrant are most emails, some phone calls, frequent interruptions, unwanted conversations and agreeing to something because you can’t say “no”. Delegate, or at least don’t get caught up with these activities.
Quadrant IV is the section that most of us get caught up in. It is for those activities that are often used for taking a break from important and time pressured activities. For example, watching your favorite TV show can be a relief at the end of a long day. The key here is to limit how much time is spent in this quadrant, otherwise, you lose control of your future and may decrease your chance for success.
Example – Work-Related Activities:
Take your list of job-related tasks then sort all the tasks in the appropriate quadrant. The following is an example of a work-related importance-urgency matrix:
Example – Personal Activities:
Take your personal to-do list then sort it out into the appropriate quadrant. The following is an example of a personal importance-urgency matrix: