One of the foremost thought leaders and highly acclaimed authors of our time, the late Dr. Stephen Covey wrote (amongst many other publications) an International bestselling Book called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. In this book, he wrote about his insights studying highly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Dr. Covey noted the uncanny ability of successful people demonstrate outstanding time management skills and in particular their ability to prioritize their work and life tasks based on a hierarchy of importance.
He said that all work can be broken down into four quadrants, or headings being:
- Important and Urgent
- Important but Not Urgent
- Not Important but Urgent
- Not Important and Not Urgent
Quadrant A – Important and Urgent (the cheese wheel)
In our everyday lives, there are hundreds of ways to make money and there are hundreds of ways to “stay on the cheese wheel”. Most businesses rely heavily on the business owner to “get things done”, and the less systemized the business and the less skilled and trained the employees are the more reliant on the business owner will be business remain in Quadrant A. We see this occur when a business owner says “I’d love to take the time to write up a system and train an employee but that will take longer than doing it myself so, for now, I will just do it myself”. The outcome is that business owner will have to do it themselves again and again until they realize quadrant A sustains a need to remain in quadrant A.
Quadrant B – Important but Not Urgent (the change agent)
In the middle of winter, I don’t need to water my garden. It’s cold and it rains a lot so the garden gets the water it needs. However, when summer comes around I will have to water the garden every night if I don’t install an automated watering system. Now the installation will cost me a weekend away from my children so whilst it’s winter, my mindset tells me “it’s important to install an automated sprinkling system but it’s not urgent” and because it’s not urgent I put it off all winter.
Spring comes along then it still rains consistently enough so I again tell myself that the automated watering system is still important, but it’s also still not urgent and so I put it off again and then I forget about it.
Summer comes and a heat wave hits and as a result of not investing the time and money in Quadrant B over the past six months, now means I MUST water the garden every night so my garden does not die.
Creating systems and then training employees on how to take that responsibility off you takes time and it’s a logical “important but not urgent” example. However, as a result, you will always have to “do it yourself” and spend your days in Quad-A until you come to terms with this reality.
Business Masters spend all of their time in Quad B-and no time in any of the other quadrants.