Previously I analyzed the situation I was facing - less efficient in doing my “work” after living in a more healthier way. I urged myself to figure out a way to solve the ‘low efficiency’ problem. Then I was in the middle of reading the very famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A very interesting concept caught my attention and made me rethink the way I was scheduling my daily life. I realized that I should make sure I have decided WHAT needs to be done before I find out HOW to do it.

Quadrant II Organizing

The daily activity we participate can be divided into four types in terms of their level of urgency and importance. Urgent things require immediate attention, while important things contribute to our mission, values and high priority goals.

We react to urgent matters. Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity. We must act to seize opportunity, to make things happen.

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People Living in Different Quadrants

Quadrant I people are always busy, dealing with important and urgent things. They are more like problem-minded/deadline-driven people. Their lives are filled with problem to fix and emergent tasks to complete. This quadrant consumes a lot of people, especially in this high-pace society. Everyone is rushing for their “goals”, neglecting some more important aspects in their lives.

Quadrant III people are busy too. What’s worse is that they think they’re in Quadrant I. Because they live a busy life as the Quadrant I people. They spend most of their time reacting to the things that are urgent, assuming that are also important. But the reality is that the urgency of these matters is often based on the expectations of the others, instead of their own personal goals and desires. People who are stressed with their busy job but not in the way to achieve the goal they actually want, really should stop and think- what they go for is what they want or not.

Quadrant IV people are just stupid losers in life.

Quadrant II is the heart of the effective personal management. It deals with things that are not urgent, but are important. It deals with things like personal development, networking, building relationships, long-range planning, exercising. All those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they are not URGENT.

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Self Evaluation

It is not difficult to understand that Quadrant II should be the focus to expand, while Quadrant I contains the things we could not escape from. More time need to be taken from the bottom two quadrants. Now I am thinking, how should I decide which area the matters I deal with everyday falls into?! I use a quite scientific way to do this. I first list out all the things I get around with in a table. I score them with the level of urgency and importance. The things are then plot in a 2D space with the scores as the coordinate location (I call it a task matrix). Now it becomes quite clear that what should be the focus of my life and what should be avoided! The idea of “Quadrant I actually shrinks itself as we put more effort in Quadrant II” explains itself when I see the “task matrix”: when I put more effort in knowledge learning and research/paper drafting in Quadrant II, the paper revision/submission in Quadrant I would certainly become easy to handle and less urgent.

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Look at the Time Wheel Again

Now I look at the interesting time wheels. The previous two wheels are abstractions of a “typical” day under two different life styles. However not everyday are following the timing. Actually even not all five weekdays are spent exactly sticking to the schedules, without mentioning the weekends. How we spend the time cannot be simply drawn as a circle. Life is full of unexpectations and interruptions. A day cannot be perfectly planned and scheduled. What we should do, is to identifying the priorities, the Quadrant II activities and put them on the organizer before anything else. Planning and organizing on a daily basis is not effective as weekly plans, as suggested by the Stephen Covey in the book:

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. Having identified roles and set goals, you can translate each goal to a specific day of the week, either as a priority item, or even better, as a specific appointment.

Thanks to my occupation currently, I could manager my life quite flexible. There are two more time wheels that I am actually practicing and could try to practice. For a day if I intend to accomplish a certain amount of complicated and important work, I should avoid all the distractions and focuses by keeping all the routine work (office hour) delaying for a day if possible since they are mostly from Quadrant III. And I also realize that refreshment hour should not be cut off, since they are more from Quadrant II. Then I could squeeze it into a big chunk of time left another chunk of for production hour only. The main thing is not to let those stupid little things from Quadrant III and IV to disturb me!

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