The Stephen Covey Time Management Matrix

The time management matrix of Stephen Covey is from his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  This book has been one of the cornerstones in personal development and success strategies.  His matrix allows the individual who uses it to easily see where they are spending their time so they can make adjustments.  The matrix is the easy part, categorizing your tasks may not be as easy.  Read on for more of  Stephen Covey’s grid for the management of time.

The Time Management Matrix is from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. This book saved my sanity. I found myself daily getting sidetracked and diverted from my To Do list by what everyone else thought was the top priority. It was their priority, of course, not mine, and I had a bad habit of wanting to please everyone. So what happens is that the last person to hand you a “priority” gets bumped to the top of the list. If you don’t set your own priorities, you will be tossed like a bottle on the sea. Stephen Covey simplified it immensely with his 4 quadrants in the Time Management Matrix.

Quadrant I Activities: URGENT + IMPORTANT


Pressing Problems

Deadline-driven projects

Quadrant II Activities: NOT URGENT but IMPORTANT



Relationship building

Recognizing new opportunities

Values clarification

True recreation

Not Important

Quadrant III Activities: URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT

Interruptions, some calls

Some mail, some reports

Some meetings

Proximate, pressing matters

Popular Activities

Quadrant IV Activities: NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT

Trivia, busy work

Some mail

Some phone calls

Time wasters

Pleasant activities

Covey says that many of us spend most of our timein Quadrant IV and almost no time in Quadrant II.

Consider the activities shown in each quadrant:


Clearly, these activities should take first priority. However, your long term goal should be to reduce time spent here by prevention, preparation, etc. (see Quadrant II).


The key to success in gaining control of your time priorities is to focus on activities in this quadrant. If you are currently doing very little here, begin by carving out a small amount of time each day and building on it.


Many of us get trapped by other people’s sense of urgency telling us what is important. Allowing your priorities to fall here can result in a frenzied rush to get “things” done, followed by a sense of emptiness and lack of satisfaction.


Obviously, minimize time spent in activities in this quadrant.

I wish you luck with this and warn you that you have to be ever vigilant about it. There will always be someone who wants to revise your priorities

Be sure to visit my blog for more articles like this. Leadership Fundamentals. Read how I started my blog:

More on Time Management Matrix:

Priority Matrix (Time Management) – Share the knowledge that I gain

Time management experts have developed a model called a time management matrix or Priority Matrix. This model helps us prioritize our activities and use our time more effectively. Through the model we can evaluate our activities in …

Publish Date: 05/14/2010

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