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In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, the author (Stephen R. Covey) discusses his model of time allocation. Often, people fail to differentiate between what is important and what is urgent.

As an example, you may rush to answer a ringing phone, but not devote the time to strategic planning. There is no indication of whether the ringing phone is important, yet there is certainly an urgency as it will otherwise divert to voicemail. Whereas with the strategic planning, there is no urgency and it’s quite possible to carry on through your whole life without it – however the future will suffer if this doesn’t take place.

Important & urgent – these are tasks that are both important in the end vision for the business, but also require a timely action. These are often dealt with as priorities, and rightly so.

Not important & urgent – Covey contends that most “urgent” issues that people fill their days with are within this quadrant. They can either be dealt with by someone else, or are perhaps not aligned to your end goals. These are the matters that can be resolved by building effective systems and consciously choosing where to allocate your time.

Important & not urgent – these are the tasks that really matter. Included within this heading would be goal setting, strategic planning, and systems development. Ultimately, these are the tasks that should be prioritised over the “not important & urgent”, as the completion of these should lead to a reduction in unimportant tasks. Because there are no deadlines that come with these tasks, it’s important that you set your own deadlines to ensure that they actually happen.

Not important & not important – this is the last of Covey’s time allocations, and anything that is in this quadrant should be questioned – if it is not urgent, and it is not important, why are you doing it?

By Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Guide and The Franchise Handbook