Covey’s “Quadrant II” tasks and why you should know about them

The following speech, titled “Quadrant II Tasks,” was prepared and presented by Richard Thripp of Toastmasters of Port Orange, FL on 2015-04-15, in fulfillment of Competent Communication Project #4: “How to Say It” in the Toastmasters curriculum.

After hearing my speech, the audience will be educated on “Quadrant II” tasks as presented by Stephen R. Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and the audience will be encouraged to prioritize Quadrant II tasks in their daily lives.

Covey's Quadrants
Image source: SidSavara.com

  • Quadrant 2 tasks are important but not urgent.
  • More examples of Quadrant 2 tasks:
    • An ambitious exercise regimen
    • Quality time with your spouse and family
    • A side business you hope to eventually replace your day job with
    • Pursuing higher education or educational enrichment
    • Eating healthful meals; taking care of your teeth
    • Learning another language
    • Writing an enthralling book
    • Producing glamorous works of art
    • Developing your speaking skills
    • Toastmasters attendance and involvement; completing your CC and CL manuals
  • Quadrant 2 tasks are the “big picture.” They are vital to your long-term goals, dreams, and effectiveness in general. However, they can get swept under the rug because of the other 3 quadrants:
  • Quadrant 1 tasks are important and urgent. These tasks usually have deadlines, and not completing them on-time has negative consequences. For example, filing your taxes.
  • Quadrant 3 tasks are urgent but not important. If you are like me, your coworkers, friends, and family are likely to pile up quadrant 3 tasks on you, such as requests for technical help, proof-reading, or shopping advice. Ironically, a lot of these problems go away if you ignore them. A ringing phone is a prime example of an urgent but often unimportant stimulus.
  • Quadrant 4 tasks are not important and not urgent. Effective people minimize these tasks. Reading junk or chain email, using Facebook, watching TV or YouTube, reading blogs or the news, and text messaging might be in quadrant 4 for you.
  • Quadrant 2 tasks are most important to the effective and self-actualized person.
  • Quadrant 1 tasks are necessary and should be dealt with as needed.
  • Quadrants 3 and 4 should be ignored to the largest extent possible.
  • You can be very efficient focusing on quadrants 1 and 3, but be ineffective. Efficiency and effectiveness are two distinct concepts. Think about what will matter in a year or 5 years.
  • Caution must be used when applying these principles to interpersonal relationships. As Covey says, with people, “slow is fast and fast is slow,” meaning that trying to be efficient simply does not work. But these relationships may belong in Quadrant 2 and may be worth the time.
  • Quadrant 4 activities can be restive and relaxing in moderation. However, try watching documentaries, reading nonfiction books, and listening to audio books rather than the radio.
  • People who refuse to use social networks and refuse to give out their phone number or email might not just be aloof. They may be taking preventative measures to allow themselves to focus on ambitious Quadrant 2 tasks without distractions.
  • “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” – Stephen Covey; a good example of Covey’s Quadrants. He said Quadrant 2 is most important.
  • “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – President Dwight Eisenhower. Sometimes called Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix.
  • WHAT does your Quadrant 2 look like? How much time do you spend in Quadrant 2? How can you improve that?
  • Is your Quadrant 2 being neglected and ignored? Do not feel bad—you are not alone. Start saying “no” to Quadrant 3 and 4 tasks, and work on a Quadrant 2 task first thing each morning.

Download the PDF of the Quadrant II Tasks speech here (420 KB).

Richard Thripp’s 5th speech titled “Why Toastmasters?” has been posted on Thripp.org.

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