The Urgency of Deadlines

Image (c) John Morgan

It is amazing how quickly the year has gone. We are already in mid-October and 2012 is just around the corner. I set several goals and targets at the start of the year and I have had my share of struggles and successes in accomplishing them. The cause of most of my struggles has been procrastination. I have put off tackling things that would have helped me accomplish certain goals. I find that I don’t struggle with activities or goals that have urgent deadlines but it is the goals with open-ended time frames that I struggle with.

I like the sense of urgency and pressure that deadlines provide me because this helps sharpen my focus and attention. The downside of this approach is that important goals which are not urgent or deadline-driven don’t get as much attention. It is much easier to be deadline-driven than discipline-driven. The urgency of an important goal or activity tends to compel immediate action.

Stephen Covey developed a time management Matrix (below) which shows me that I am spending too much of my time in Quadrant 1 (Q1) but I really need to spend more of my time in Quadrant 2 (Q2).

Quadrant 1 represents activities that are urgent and important. These are usually activities that are deadline-driven. Covey argues that many important things become urgent because we procrastinate. We put them off until the looming deadline demands action.

Quadrant 2 represents activities that are important but not urgent. They are activities that are discipline-driven. He called this the Quadrant of Quality. This is where you spend time preparing, planning, contemplating, reflecting, and renewing. It also involves anticipating problems and preventing them before they become crises. It is very easy for let the time for Q2 to slip because it is not urgent but there are usually consequences for ignoring Q2.

Quadrant 3 represents activities that are urgent but not important. The urgency of these activities makes them seem important but they usually are not. Covey called this the Quadrant of Deception as it is a phantom of Q1. Activities here help meet other people’s agenda without really helping you fulfil your own.

Quadrant 4 represents activities that are not urgent or important. This is the Quadrant of Waste. A lot of busy work that produces very little reward or benefit. They help prevent us from tackling the activities that really require our attention and time. Goethe warned that the “things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least”

Q: Which quadrant do you spend most of your time?

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One Response to The Urgency of Deadlines

  1. Ayo

    Procrastination is certainly one big thing I’m struggling with. Also the fact that I work in an environment where EVERYTHING is priority certainly doesn’t help!!!!

    Looking at the quadrant, I’d say I spend most, if not ALL of my time in Q1.
    So how can I get myself in Q2 considering that the environment I’m in at the moment is a “Go Go Go” environment where there’s barely time to evaluate and re-assess previous deliverables and genuinely pause to learn lessons……….one place I’ll start with is what is within my control and that is procrastination!!!!

    Nice piece.


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