Get Moving! Part 2: A Simple Model

In my last blog post (which you can read here) I revealed my oft-used habit of “counting loose change,” my term for procrastination (or, as I like to think of it, “the art of not doing what I should be doing when I should be doing it but don’t want to”). In that post I offered up four simple ideas for how to quickly prioritize your time.

Sometimes, though, there’s simply more to manage than a few simple guidelines can handle.  Perhaps your work to-do’s and your home to-do’s have started overlapping and you’ve found yourself (as I sometimes do) working on a Sunday morning to finish a report or missing an evening dinner with my husband because I’m on a conference call. Or perhaps you’re suddenly faced with a burst of emergencies that only you can handle.

When that starts to happen I often lean on a model I learned several years back.  It’s a simple four-box matrix developed by Steven Covey that addresses a way to manage to-do’s and discern what is urgent, important or trivial.  (He outlines the model quite well in his book, First Things First.)

Covey’s quad-graph provides guidance and language for determining where your time goes by having the reader place tasks in one of four buckets:

  • Urgent/Important – those things that are at crisis mode or deadline-driven,
  • Not urgent/Important – those things that fall into leading, planning, relationship-building and empowerment,
  • Urgent/Not important –those nagging little things that feel like word balloons on the old VH-1 show “Pop-up Videos” — interruptions, some phone calls, some emails, many popular activities (I’d much rather be doing that!) and most of the so-called “pressing matters,” and, finally,
  • Not important/Not urgent – trivia, busy-work, junk mail, some phone calls, and escape-luring, counting-loose-change activities.

And, if you think nothing will ever end up in the Not important/Not urgent bucket, my guess is you’ll be very surprised at how much actually lands there.  Go ahead; try it.  Then let me know what you find out.  My guess is that—like me—you may have spent a bit more time than you’d like counting loose change!


  1. Sandra McLeod Humphrey said,
    December 20, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    Unfortunately, you’re so right! I do spend some of my time “counting loose change.” One of my resolutions for the new year is to prioritize!

  2. Marcia Clarke said,
    December 20, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    In the past, I was known to use Covey’s Quad (corporate life) regularly; these days not so much. But I still resort to the basics when needed, it helps put things in perspective and organize my thoughts so I can expend energy where it is really needed. Great tips, thanks.

  3. rcharney said,
    December 22, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    Thanks, Marcia! Often, getting back to the basics is all we need to remind us of what’s important. I like what you say about energy and organizing thoughts. My energy certainly is a barometer that shifts when I am focused on either important or non-important tasks. I’ll start noticing how it shifts when organizing thoughts.

  4. rcharney said,
    December 22, 2011 @ 8:55 am

    Hello Sandra and thank you for your reply. Good luck with your resolution and let me know how it’s working for you! I’d love to hear what you are noticing as you prioritize.

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  1. January 16, 2012 @ 7:26 am

    [...] Renee Charney of Charney Coaching & Consulting revisits this powerful tool. In her post, Get Moving! Part 2: A Simple Model, she reminds us to evaluate our work both by what is important and what is urgent.It’s a new [...]

  2. June 12, 2012 @ 5:01 am

    INSERT INTO `node_revisions` (`body`) VALUES…

    It is beginning to be hinted that we are a nation of amateurs….