In 1989 Stephen Covey wrote one of the best books on personal leadership and management, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This tool uses the matrix from his book to help with priorities and time management.
Here it is.
Quadrant 1 – Important / Urgent
Examples – crisis, pressing problems, deadlines …
Quadrant 2 – Important / Non-Urgent
Examples – relationships, goals, values, planning …
Quadrant 3 – Non-Important / Urgent
Examples – interruptions, some phone calls and meetings, lots of e-mail! …
Quadrant 4 – Non-Important / Non-Urgent
Examples – video games, busy work, time-wasters, more e-mail …

Coaching Point: Determining Where the Time Goes

To raise awareness, have a client record how they actually spend their time during the next week (assuming it is a fairly normal week). This can be very eye opening to your clients.
Recently, I began coaching a young pastor who was newly married and coming into new responsibilities at his church. Since he was stressed and struggling with time management, I had him complete the weekly record exercise. By the following appointment, he was ready for change! Spending 26 hours on video games was not how he wanted to spend his life!

  • Where does your time flow?
  • What seems to be consuming your time?
  • What would you like to give yourself to?

So how should we spend our time?
Quadrant 1 represents the obvious option. Here matters are pressing and need to be acted upon. However, these activities easily become the consuming routine of life. Over time and without careful consideration, even this can become overwhelming and lead to burnout.
Quadrant 4 is often an escape from the increasing pressures of Quadrant 1 – like my young client mentioned above. Usually, when presented with the choice, we recognize that this is the last option.
Your client may not be spending his hours playing video games, but our idle time tends to flow toward our weaknesses.
Now, let me give you a principle – There is a direct correlation between the acknowledgement of pain and the acceptance of relief. In other words – You have to hurt. And you have to know you hurt, before you will look for help.

Coaching Point: Help Clients See the Gap

Help them to feel the pain of the gap – the gap between their desired priorities and their current reality.

  • If you continue without change, where will that lead you?
  • What is at stake? In your relationships? In your health? In your effectiveness?

Now it gets interesting. Which should a person choose between Quadrant 2 or Quadrant 3 activities?
Most choose Quadrant 3 – the Urgent, even when it is not that Important. The rationale, whether conscious or unconscious, sounds like this, “I need to knock out these e-mails so that I can do the important things.” Or “Once I have cleared my plate, I am going to spend more time with my family, etc.” Or “Who has time to set goals? I am trying to survive the day.” Quadrant 3 often feels important but this usually comes from the expectations and demands of others. They may have nothing to do with what really matters most to you.
We are called by God to live on purpose. Unfortunately, that doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional choices.
Quadrant 2 activities flow from our purpose, our vision, and our goals. Helping your client to get in touch with these deep desires and goals will enable them to resist the natural drift toward the urgent and the non-important. Likewise, helping your client to prioritize those Important / Non-Urgent areas of life can be one of the most significant and fruitful activities of a coaching relationship.

Coaching Point: Become Intentional about Your Time

Remember: We never drift to our desired destination.

  • What are the significant areas of your life that tend to be neglected?
  • As you reflect on what is important, what choices would you like to make?
  • What are you going to say “No” to in order to say “Yes” to these priorities?

Introducing this Matrix can lead to hours of fruitful coaching conversations as clients seek to live out their priorities. No one wants to waste his or her life. But many live lives that are unexamined and the unintended consequences are sad, even devastating.
Time is a precious and limited resource. Help your clients steward it well.

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