The Extras

The 4 Quadrant Grid

This extra is around the 4 Quadrant Grid approach to prioritizing work and time management that I mentioned in my blog.  I learned about this during my doctorate program a decade ago and I was sold.  Brilliant approach to keep my focus on the most important things to tackle from day to day.  If you’re curious to learn more and see if this could work for you, please check out Dr. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, of which the grid is a component he addresses.

The short explanation of the Grid is to categorize the items from your regular “To Do” list, that streams on in no particular order, into an intentional sorting so that you can clearly see how to manage your work and what to do first, second, and third.  The analogy is about how you fit big rocks, little rocks, sand, and 2 cups of coffee into one container.  As the analogy goes, they all fit into the jar if you put them in the jar in the right order; put them into the jar in the wrong order, and they don’t all fit.  So it is with our “to do” list.  The correct order is to put in the big rocks, then the little rocks, next the sand to fill in the gaps, and finally the 2 cups of coffee – because there’s always room for coffee! 

Dr. Covey’s 4 Quadrant Grid – visual

The rocks and such equate to the 4 Quadrants on the Grid.  

  • Quadrant 1 – The big rocks equate to your Quadrant 1 – urgent and important.  These things have deadlines and dire consequences if you don’t get them done on time / right away.  Delegate where you can.  
  • Quadrant 2 – Little rocks are your Quadrant 2 – important to you.  They may not be urgent but they are meaningful to you.  These would include your family, your health, your friends, your self-care, and other such areas.  
  • Quadrant 3 – Sand is this quadrant.  It could be urgent but not a crisis; however, it still needs to get done.
  • Quadrant 4 – Coffee.  This is the realm of distractions.  It might feel good or it pulls your attention, but it’s not important, urgent, or particularly necessary.   

I use this in the original way, but I’ve also adapted it over time to fit with my work demands.  My subtle tweak for work:

  • Q1 – urgent and important.  Do NOW!  This needs to get done within the next 1-3 days.
  • Q2 – important to me / the team / the work.  This doesn’t have a real time component, but it is vitally important to address ASAP within the next 2 weeks somehow.  This area needs to be looked at for possible delegating.
  • Q3 – Looming out there.  Not critically important but it’s on the radar, could become important within the next month or two.  Keep tabs on it.  OR – it needs to get done but fit it in whenever you get time.  Break it into pieces so you can whittle away at it potentially.
  • Q4 – Distractions and derailments.  Things lingering out there that are threatening to derail, disrupt, or distract us from the work.  Could become an issue if not addressed in potentially another quadrant sooner.
Just an example of how I used it this week

How this rolls out changes with the work.  Sometimes I have little index card tents or large clips to group paperwork.  Other times it’s a white board in my office.  There’s usually one of these tucked into my bullet journal.  Sometimes – I use all of them!  It really depends on the work.  

Whatever it takes to keep my mind focused on what to do and what order to do it in is what I need to do.  Recently I’ve had to keep moving from place to place within the school, so I’ve started adding sticky notes to my clipboard and take the visual with me.  So many variations!  Make it unique so it works for you.   

It never fails me.  Hope this idea can work for you too!