Reviewing Covey’s 4 Quadrants

Today we will talk about Covey’s Four Quadrants, which says that the things we do in life can be organized into 4 quadrants:

When I first encountered this, about 20 years ago, it was exactly what I needed. I was living almost exclusively in Quadrants 1 and 3, and felt stretched to the limit. Oh I was “doing okay” (meaning I was surviving). But, I did not feel any sense of peace and contentment at all. And, frankly, I had begun to feel like I was not in control of my life. I had not formally come to that conclusion, but there was a sense of it swimming around in my mind.

But after reading Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I began implementing what he taught and I started trying to live out of Quadrant 2, and to manage the time I spent in each of the 4 Quadrants. Making the move to living out of Quadrant 2 is one of the most valuable things I have ever done. And, it really was not hard:

  • I wrote down all the Quadrant 1 and 3 activities I was routinely engaged in
  • For each of these, I asked “what can I do to prevent this activity from reoccurring or from it having such an urgency?”
  • Asking this question helped me identify Quadrant 2 activities I should be doing. Once I identified them, I began scheduling time to implement them.
  • For each Q2 activity I scheduled, I stuck with the schedule. I treated each one just like a real appointment that I had to keep.

It did not take long before I was thinking in Q2, defining new activities that could prevent additional crises that could easily have happened had I not “awakened.” In fact, I found Covey’s entire book to be helpful, and consider it to be one of the most valuable books I have ever read. A lot of people do not like it because they think it is “preachy.” I really did not look at it that way, though, perhaps because I needed some “preaching”. I needed someone to tell me how stupid it is to climb the ladder of success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. I needed to be reminded that my family matters far more than my work. Oh of course I would have told you they did, but I was not spending the time with them I should have been spending. I was focusing on “earning the bacon,” thinking that doing so was the way I could help my family.

Covey woke me up, and that is why, even today, I appreciate the Covey philosophies more than I do the Getting Things Done philosophies. Actually I have found that I can integrate the two systems and get the best from both. I encourage you to see if you can do this, too.

Finally, you may be interested in knowing why I decided it was time to review Covey’s 4 Quadrants: I personally needed the review, and thought that some of you may also benefit from it. I have been retired almost 6 years now, and had drifted away from using the 4 Quadrants. Consequently, I have been drifting toward dwelling in Quadrant 4, of all despicable “places” to dwell. It is incredibly easy for a retired person to do this, and I am working on getting myself back into Q2. By the way, feel free to download the above picture so you can print it out for reference.

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