time management, time management quadrant

What is the Time Management Quadrant?

Proper time management has many benefits and is essential for everyone, especially entrepreneurs. It is no secret that entrepreneurs must master wearing multiple hats. Without being able to properly allocate time, their business will easily struggle. How do successful entrepreneurs manage their time? It is quite simple, the Time Management Quadrant.

This original framework was from Dwight D. Eisenhower and was also known as the Eisenhower Box, Eisenhower Matrix, The Eisenhower Method or Time Management Matrix. Throughout his life, Dwight D. Eisenhower used this principle to organize his priorities. He understood that having amazing time management skills would allow him to not only be effective, but efficient.

About three decades later, Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) took this idea mainstream by making it more visual. Some people call the quadrant the Covey Time Management Matrix- but regardless of what it is called, the aim is to become effective by becoming more productive.

The Basics

In order to correctly use the Time Management Quadrant (Covey Time Management Matrix), you must understand what are “urgent” activities and what are “important” activities.

Urgent Activities: Things that require immediate attention, visible issues that cannot be put off. These are unavoidable because there would be consequences if they are not completed. Urgent activities can put people into reactive mode where they become defensive, hurried and close-minded.

Important Activities: Things that contribute to your goals and values. These are of high significance that involve planning and proper follow-through. Important activities tend to put people into responsive mode where they become calmer, more rational and open to other ideas.

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The break-down of the Time Management Quadrant is simple, it takes different tasks and labels them in four different ways:

  1. Urgent and Important
  2. Not Urgent, But Important
  3. Urgent, But Not Important
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important

The Four Quadrants

Being able to correctly identify which tasks go into each section of the Time Management Quadrant will help you understand how to go about your day.

Quadrant 1 (Urgent and Important): 

These are tasks that you have to take action on quickly, since they are also helping you fulfill your goals and missions. Tasks here may cause stress because of their importance, so do not spend too much time pontificating on each or you will have no energy for working on other tasks once these are knocked off..

Do your best to eliminate procrastination and focus on efficiently moving through these tasks.

Examples: Tire on your car goes flat, work deadlines, family emergencies, time-sensitive emails, your hot water heater blows, last minute critical patient, colleague called in sick causing you to take a new shift and so on.

Quadrant 2 (Not Urgent and But Important):

Tasks in this quadrant may not necessarily have a deadline, but they do help you move towards your personal and entrepreneurial goals. This quadrant is golden (Stephen Covey calls it “Quadrant of Quality”), you are not as focused on problems, and more focused on opportunities or growing.

Do your best to spend the majority of your time on tasks in this quadrant as they tend to give people the most happiness and personal fulfillment.

Examples: Maintenance projects, networking, healthy living, personal development, reading/studying, taking time to be with your significant other or family, launching your business and so on.

Quadrant 3 (Urgent and Not Important): 

These tasks are ones that do not help you reach your goals and missions, but do require attention now. A lot of tasks that fall here are busy work or expectations that are set by other people. These tasks can really eat into your productivity and can sometimes be a result of poor planning of tasks in the first two quadrants.

Examples: Phone calls/texts, majority of your emails, people asking you for favors, some meetings, grocery shopping and so on. Note: You are not obligated to respond to emails.

Quadrant 4 (Not Urgent and Not Important):

Tasks here are usually ones that waste your time and do not contribute to your goals. They can take over a large amount of time and are overall a distraction from you living a fulfilling life. Sometimes tasks that end up here are not thought about or planned and can reduce productivity.

Examples: Mindlessly scrolling social media, watching TV for hours and hours, browsing the internet and so on (Yes, we all need leisure time, just do not take things to extremes. Be intentional about your downtime, because if you are not, you may find your energy and passion gone.) I do my best to spend no time on these areas since they do not help me achieve my goals.

A Caveat

While reading this blog, it may seem simple to spend time in the second quadrant, however, you may find yourself doing anything but the second quadrant tasks due of the following:

  1. Plan to do tasks ahead of time: Most people have a tendency to procrastinate or find something else to add to their list rather than focusing on their goals. However, life happens and unforeseen issues pop up that throw you a curveball. By doing your best to finish things earlier than planned, you will have wiggle room in your schedule to easily accommodate the unexpected. I live by this mantra – Just do it, today.
  2. Understand what is important to you: While this may seem odd, it is true. Sure, it is easy to know most people value their family; however, many people really struggle with values and more specific goals that they would like to accomplish. Without understanding your goals and mission, you will not be able to correctly do the time management quadrant.
  3. Lack of self-discipline and belief in one-self: It can be easy to put tasks in the second quadrant on the backburner because they do not necessarily have a deadline. You must be self-disciplined and make sure you create time every day to do tasks in the second quadrant to accomplish your personal and entrepreneurial goals. Be confident in your abilities to do things you have never done before, if you don’t know something, you can learn it. There has never been a more perfect moment to start then today. The easy way to do it is to block off XX minutes per day to spend on Quadrant 2.

So, remember, living a more fulfilling life without regrets requires you to spend most of your time on activities in the second quadrant on the Time Management Quadrant.

You do not want to get in a cycle of only dealing with stressful “urgent and important tasks,” you will burn out and lack meaning and enjoyment in life. Being an entrepreneur is already stressful enough.

Every successful business starts with a business plan. Don’t be afraid to create one for your life so you easily identify what is most important and then commit to the personal changes necessary to succeed.

Do not keep telling yourself that someday you will make the time, be intentional and proactive.



Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Free Press.