Time Management Matrix: Four Quadrants


Highly effective people don’t really manage time, they manage themselves. Instead of being caught up in things, they plan and execute according to what matters most. I already introduced a Gold Time Management Technique in the past, but it is such a helpful tool that I would like to expand on it further.


Important = something that attaches to your mission, roles and goals.

Urgent = something that presses upon you, like a ringing phone. Sometimes it doesn’t attach to your mission, roles and goals at all.

Quadrant 1 = important and urgent: problems/crises — they need to be attended to or your don’t survive.

Quadrant 2 = important and not urgent — attaches to your mission, roles and goals, but there is not a sense of NOW about it.

Quadrant 3 = urgent but not important — pressing, immediate, in front of you, that ringing phone, unanswered mail, all those distracting things that are important to others but they don’t attach to your organization’s overall mission.

Quadrant 4 = not urgent and not important — a lot of time wasting, extensive Monday morning quarterbacking, unnecessary meetings, unprepared meetings, interruption that can consume the entire day where you are very busy all day long and feel at the end of the day like you accomplished nothing.

How Four Quadrants Can Work for You

It’s easy to get sidetracked and go into the management of the wrong things. Ask yourself this: if you did one activity that you perform superbly well and consistently, wouldn’t it produce marvelous results? Think of one such activity in your personal life and one in your professional life. This would be a Quadrant 2 activity – the entire key to time management and opportunities.

If you neglect Quadrant 2, Quadrant 1 will grow until it consumes your life. It will burn you out and cause fatigue. If you attend to Quadrant 2 instead, Quadrant 1 will get smaller and smaller. You will still have some things that you hadn’t anticipated, but it will be manageable. You will have the sense that you are working on prevention and seizing opportunities.

Where do you find the time and attention to get into Quadrant 2? Surely not from Quadrant 1. Quadrants 3 and 4 is what you need to limit. Learn to say “no”, pleasantly and kindly, but firmly. You will immediately notice the difference.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is that Quadrant 1 acts upon you and Quadrant 2 must be acted upon by taming Quadrant 3 and 4. Now, be proactive and do first things first.

Need help with this topic or leadership coaching? Contact Mission Critical Teams.