The One Thing for Extraordinary Results

“The ONE THING” process is about taking the shortest path to achieving the most impactful results. It is not however just about getting stuff done and being more productive: It’s about having meaningful days; being motivated and happy; working on important things that have a real impact; on things that truly make a difference.

The Process

tot_dominos_trim1. Have a clear long term goal

This process assumes that you have a goal that you want to achieve at some point in the future.

2. Identify the ONE thing that will produce the biggest results

If you could only do ONE thing this year to get you closer to your goal, what would that be? Ask yourself: “What is the ONE THING I can do THIS YEAR such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” That thing is your goal for the year.

3. Identify your ONE thing for TODAY

  • MONTH: What is the ONE thing you could do THIS MONTH to get closer to your one year goal?
  • WEEK:What is the ONE thing you could do THIS WEEK to get closer to your monthly goal?
  • TODAY: Finally, what is the ONE thing you could do TODAY to get you closer to your weekly goal?

4. Work on TODAY’s ONE THING for your FIRST four hours

Spend the FIRST HALF of your day working on your ONE THING. No interruptions, no distractions, no emails, no phone calls, no meetings. Just laser focused work on your most important task. Your morning is spent on your most important thing. The afternoon is left for emails, phone calls, and meetings. By working on your ONE THING first, you are sure it will get done. Things left for later have a chance of not getting done.

“Until my ONE THING is Done –Everything else is a Distraction”

Why this makes me happy

This process is not just about getting stuff done and being more productive: It’s about having meaningful days; being motivated and happy; working on important things that have a real impact; on things that truly make a difference.

Since I’ve started to use this process I’m more engaged at work, more motivated, less stressed out, and happier. I get to devote uninterrupted time to important meaningful projects that will have a huge impact. If I “run out of time” during my day, it’s the unimportant things that get dropped.

The Productive vs The Unproductive Day

Do you ever feel like you’ve been SUPER busy all day, yet did not get anything accomplished? Those are the days where you DID NOT work on your one most important thing.

The difference between a PRODUCTIVE day and an UNPRODUCTIVE day is how much time you spend on your ONE THING. If you work on your ONE THING first, your day is already productive and rewarding by the time lunch rolls around. It doesn’t matter what happens the rest of your day.

 

The Myth of Multitasking

It is a myth that you get more done by doing many things at the same time. If you want huge success, you need to be very narrowly focused. If you try to do two things at once you won’t do either well. Chasing too many rabbits leads to catching none.

“Do fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects”

Multitasking is a form of self distraction. When switching between two tasks, there is always a reorientation phase, and that’s wasted time.

tot_interruptions

The 80 / 20 rule

Not all things matter equally. Not all tasks are created equal. You need to focus on those that matter most and that produce the biggest results: If 20% of you activities result in 80% of your results, then you should be spending more of your time on those activities.

tot_8020

 

The Importance of Only ONE Thing

There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important. Not a few things… Not two things… ONE THING!

What is my ONE THING?

If today you (or your company) don’t know what your ONE THING is, then your ONE THING is to figure that out.

Family, Friends, and Life Outside of Work

Following this process means spending a large amount of time focused on a single usually “work” related goal. That often means less time for your family, friends, and other priorities. It is very important to ensure you are spending quality time with your family and friends during your evenings, weekends, and vacations.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called  work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of these in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends and integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

Chaos!

Following this process tends to cause some chaos. Since you have less time to do “maintenance” work, you will tend to experience a messy desk, a messy email inbox, etc… Either clean it up in the afternoon, or live with it. Those are the costs of narrow focus and great results.

“It’s not that we have too little time to do the things we need to do, it’s that we feel we need to do too many things in the time we have.”

Other Applications…

In your non-work life

The “One Thing process” can also be used at a smaller scale in your non-work life: What is the ONE thing you can do for your family that will have the most positive effect? What is the ONE thing you could do for your spouse that would make your relationship better? What is the ONE thing you could do for your parents or friends? What is the ONE thing you could change to improve your health? What is the ONE thing from a personal standpoint that would bring you the most happiness? Etc…

In your company

Your company should use this process to be laser focused on it’s most important, most impactful goal. And at a smaller scale, each department and each employee should have their long term goals with work backs to what their ONE THING for today is. If you have weekly status meetings, they should be used to help identify everyone’s ONE THING. Employee performance reviews should be about their ONE THING. Etc…

one_thing_merchBuy the Book

If you like the One Thing as I’ve described it here, and want to learn more about it, then I highly recommend you purchase the book or visit the Official One Thing site (non affiliate links)

 

Polyphasic Sleep for Jetlag

This is a modification on something similar I did when my daughter was born: Trying to catch up on sleep as a new parent. After having great success with that experiment, I tried the same schedule to recover lost sleep due to jet lag (also with great success).

Most recommendations for recovering from Jet-lag involve avoiding sleep at your destination and trying to stay awake as long as possible (until night time). Usually taking a nap is a bad idea because of the tendency to oversleep. What I am recommending is highly regimented naps in both frequency and duration.

The Plan

  1. Follow traditional best practices for avoiding Jet Lag.
  2. 20 minute naps every 4 hours: As soon as you land go on a dynamic “everyman” sleep schedule (20 minute nap every 4 hours) until night time and then either
    1. Sleep as long as you can (if you can); or
    2. if you cannot sleep, take another 20 minute nap and try sleeping again in another 4 hours.
  3. Repeat on the second day: When you wake up, record the time and plan on another 20 minute nap in 4 hours (and continue the cycle).
  4. Stop the nap schedule once you feel you are onto the local rhythm, but I recommend to stick with it for at least 2 days (or more if you enjoy it!).
  5. Start on the plane: If you are on a really long flight with multiple connections, you can try starting your nap schedule early by napping at airports during connections or on the plane before you land.

Very important: You are not trying to reduce sleep. You are trying to catch up on missed sleep (and future sleep you are about to miss). So don’t purposely stay up all night — if it’s night time and you can get an entire night’s sleep in, then do so. But if it’s day time then be strict with your nap schedule.

Tips

  • Take wind down time into account. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes to fall asleep, so I usually schedule my nap 15 minutes earlier and set my alarm for 35 minutes.
  • It is ok if you don’t actually sleep. Lying in a comfy spot with your eyes closed for 20 minutes will refresh you enough to help push you through another 4 hours of awake.
  • Plan your day around your sleep schedule to make sure you can get your naps in
  • Carry ear plugs and a night mask (and an inflatable pillow?) to maximize your “anywhere / anytime” nap opportunities.
  • Use the website JetLagRooster.com to prep your sleep schedule even before you leave and get tips on how to adapt once you land (note: They do not have naps built into their schedule)

How to Make Your Children Smarter: Entity VS Incremental Learning

Children tend to view their intelligence in one of two ways:

Entity Learners: “I am smart at this”

“Entity” learners believe in a fixed level of intelligence: I.e.: “I am good at math; I am bad at english”.

They believe they have a fixed level of ability and there is very little they can do to change their results.  Since success or failure implies “smart” or “not-smart”, they will tend to avoid risk of failure.

Incremental Learners: “I tried hard at this”

“Incremental” learners believe their level of intelligence is flexible and influenced by hard work. “I got it because I worked very hard at it” or “I should have tried harder”.

The learning is more important than the results. Step by step they can move from novice to master. When faced with failure, they increase their efforts or change their tactics.

Winning and Losing

Winning is still important. It is still very important. But learning is more important than winning or losing.

It would be easy to read about the studies on entity vs incremental theories of intelligence and come to the conclusion that a child should never win or lose. I don’t believe this is the case. If that child discovers any ambition to pursue excellence in a given field later in life, he or she may lack the toughness to handle inevitable obstacles. While a fixation on results is certainly unhealthy, short term goals can be useful development tools if they are balanced within a nurturing long-term philosophy. Too much sheltering from results can be stunting.
— Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

Assume your child is playing high-school level soccer. Which is better? Winning against a kindergarden team or losing a close match against a university team? I would argue that playing against the stronger team (win or lose) will have much better long term benefits than winning against the kindergarden team. If you never lose then you are not challenging yourself enough.

If your child experiences a crushing defeat, don’t patronize them by saying that “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose”. Your child is feeling strong emotions that clearly matter to him. Your words will not resonate with his reality.  Instead acknowledge those feelings and focus on the learning: “I know you put a lot of effort into this and you wanted to win very badly. Not winning hurts a lot sometimes, but it can also help you get better.  Let’s learn from this — let’s train harder and get better for the next match. The best way to get better is to face strong opponents, and when you face strong opponents you will lose sometimes. But you will get better. And the better you get, the more you will win.”

I have seen many people in diverse fields take some version of the (incremental learning) philosophy and transform it into an excuse for never putting themselves on the line or pretending not to care about results. They claim to be egoless, to care only about learning, but really this is an excuse to avoid confronting themselves.
— Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

What Parents or Teachers can do

The language used by parents or teachers play a big role in a child’s view of their intelligence.

Language such as “You are really good at math, but bad at English” will tend to reinforce that intelligence is a fixed and unchangeable. Children will learn that they are good at math and bad at English. They will link their success and failure  to a predefined fixed level of ability. There is nothing they can do about it, so they will not try to get better.

Focus on the learning. Re-enforce that they can change their results with effort: “You are really doing good in math: Keep up the good work! You are struggling in english: Let’s study a little harder!”.

It is never too late

It is clear that parents and teachers have an enormous responsibility in forming theories of intelligence of their students and children — and it is never too late. It is critical to realize that we can always evolve in our approaches to learning. Studies have shown that in just minutes, kids can be conditioned into having a healthy learning theory for a given situation.
— Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

Resources

Balance Your Life by Planning your Week

What is “Balance”

I don’t like the term “Work/Life” balance because it implies that there are only two areas of importance: Work and Life. The reality for most of us is that “Life” is actually composed of several important roles: Parenting, Homeownership, Friendships, Community, “Me” time, etc….

Most of us already spend at least half our waking hours at work. This does not leave much time for the other important areas in your life.

How I Plan My Week

Every weekend I go through the following ritual to plan the coming week.

1. Review your Personal Mission Statement

Although not absolutely necessary to begin, a personal mission statement gives you guidance and is a reminder of what is important to you.  If you don’t already have one, take some time to write one. Every week review your mission statement and update it as necessary.

My Personal Mission Statement:

To find happiness, fulfillment, and value in living I will strive to:

  • Make a positive difference in the lives of others;
  • Spend more quality time with friends and family;
  • Simplify my life; work less; have more “perfect days”; and keep an open mind;
  • Do great things; strive for excellence; and inspire others.
  • Apologize sincerely when necessary.
  • Remember that life is short; be grateful; relax and enjoy the moment; Memento Mori.

2. Identify & Review your Roles

Achieving “balance in life” isn’t about getting a 50/50 balance between “work” and “life”.  You play many more than just 2 roles in life. You should devote time to all the roles you play: Individual, Father, Husband, Friend, Employee, Homeowner, Artist, World Traveler, Adventurer, etc…

Identify all the roles you play in your life that you would like to devote more time to. Ideally you should have somewhere between 4 -8 roles identified. Each week you should make an effort to spend a little bit of time in each role.

My Roles:

  • Individual
  • Father / Husband
  • Family Member (son, brother, cousin)
  • Friend
  • Employee / Entrepreneur
  • Homeowner

Every week I review this list of roles to ensure that they are current.

Personal Renewal

In addition to the roles above, there are 4 special “personal renewal” roles that you should devote time to each week:

  • Physical: Eat healthy, exercise, etc…
  • Mental: Read, learn, etc…
  • Social: Strengthen existing relationships, form new relationships, networking, etc…
  • Spiritual: Meditate, nature, music, religion, etc…

3. Identify and Review your long term Goals

For each of your roles (except the personal renewal roles) your should define some long term goals. What are some big picture goals that would make a tremendous difference if you accomplish them? Make them as specific as possible and not too vague. Each week you should spend a little bit of time getting closer to your goals.

I review my goals weekly to make sure they are still important to me and that they align with my personal mission statement.

Some of my Goals :

  • Individual: Resume Painting; Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro; Visit the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Father / Husband: Weekly date night; 10 year anniversary trip; Build swing set;
  • Family: Help my father lose 50lbs; Family cottage trip; 
  • Friend: Help my friends identify and achieve their goals;
  • Homeowner: Renovate garage; Build a pool; 

4. Identify your Priorities and Plan your Week

One I’ve reviewed my mission statement, roles, and goals I’m ready to start identifying my priorities for the week and scheduling them into my calendar. For each of my roles I choose between 1 and 3 important priorities/tasks to work on that week.

Here is the process I go through to identify my priorities for the week:

  • Leftovers from the previous week: I always look back at my previous week to see if there is anything that I wanted to get done that I didn’t get done. I then decide if I want to bring these over for the current week or not.
  • Previously scheduled commitments: I look over my coming week to identify any previously scheduled commitments, holidays, events, etc… and add them to the appropriate role.
  • Maintenance and unforeseen important tasks: There are usually some “unplanned” things that pop up every week that should be added to my list of priorities: Things like paying bills, making required repairs to your home/car, etc..
  • Your Goals: Finally I look at the goals I defined for each role and make it a priority to do something that will get me a step closer towards achieving those goals.

In an ideal world all your weekly priorities would be centered around your goals, but often times there will be other important or urgent things that will compete for your time. Please read my post “The Four Quadrants of Time Management” to better understand the difference between “important” and “urgent” things.

Example of my weekly priorities:

  • Physical: Gym x2; Run x3; Nutrition
  • Mental: Learn a new Language; Read a book
  • Spiritual: Go for a solo Hike; Play Guitar; Meditate;
  • Social:  Go out for lunch with co-workers
  • Individual: Research VISA requirements for travel to Kenya; Research recommended training regiment for Mt. Kilimanjaro climb; Research estimated costs for trip;
  • Father / Husband: Buy flowers for wife; Spend 1-on-1 time with daughter; Start budget/savings plan for 10 year anniversary trip;
  • Family: Visit my father weekly (and call daily) to make sure he is following his Slow Carb Diet.
  • Friend: Go for drinks with friends;
  • Homeowner: Look at municipal pool regulations; Fall cleanup / maintenance

5. Schedule your Priorities

Using a calendar, task list, or other time management tool, schedule all of your activities into your calendar. I prefer to use the iOS calendar on my iPhone to schedule the time to perform all my priorities for the week. So if one of my priorities is to plan a family trip to Europe, then I will block off 1 hour in my schedule to perform the planning & research. It is ok if I don’t get all the planning done in the 1 hour block, what is most important is that I am chipping away towards achieving my goal. The next week, I’ll schedule another 1 hour block.

You can also use a task list or other time management tool, but I find putting all your priorities into a calendar helps you see how your realistic your week will actually be. It will also allow you to see where there will be time crunches or conflicts, etc…

Remember, the point is to get balance in your life, and to spend a little bit of time in all the “roles” you’ve defined.

Related Posts

Reactive vs Proactive Language

I NEED” vs “I WANT
I MUST” vs “I PREFER
I CAN’T” vs “I CHOOSE

Most of us use “reactive” language in our day to day lives: “I CAN’T do that because I HAVE to do this“.

The problem with using reactive language is that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy: Re-enforcing the belief that we are pre-determined.

WHAT YOU SAY WHAT YOU MEAN
That’s me.
That’s just the way I am
I am determined.
There is nothing I can do about it
I can’t do that.
I just don’t  have the time
Something external (limited time)
is controlling me
If only my boss were more patient Someone else’s behaviour
is limiting my effectiveness
I have to do it Circumstances or other people are
forcing me to do what I do.
I am not free to choose my own actions.

Change your Language
and you will change your situation

Outside of being bound by the laws of physics, there are very few things in life that you HAVE or NEED to do. So stop using those words.

You are Brainwashing Yourself

Using reactive language absolves you of responsibility and makes you powerless: “I am not responsible. I am not able to choose my response. There is nothing I can do about it”.

DON’T USE THIS USE THIS INSTEAD
I NEED I WANT
I MUST I PREFER
I CAN’T I CHOOSE

This is a very subtle change in behaviour but it will make a huge changes in your life.

Example:

REACTIVE: “I wish I could take 6 months off and travel the world but I can’t because I have to work and I don’t have enough vacation.”

PROACTIVE #1:“Although I would love to take 6 months off and travel, my financial security and my career are currently more important to me. I choose not to go on this trip so that I can focus instead on my career.”

PROACTIVE #2: “The experience of travelling is much more important to me than my job or my financial security. So I will convince my boss to give me a 6 month sabbatical (or just quit?) and I will go on this iconic journey.”

Re-evaluate your Paradigm

Saying that “I DON’T WANT TO go on a wonderful 6 month trip because I WANT TO work” is difficult and counterintuitive.  By changing your language you will re-evaluate your reality:

  • Do I really want to keep working instead of travelling?
  • How important is seeing the world to me?
  • How important is my job or career?
  • Is this job really what I want to do?
  • What is truly important to me?

There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. But asking these questions empowers you to change.

It is always your fault

Until you can honestly say that “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday” you cannot say “I choose otherwise”.

Never blame others for failures.  Always blame yourself. The moment you blame another person or some external circumstance, you become powerless to change the results:

THEIR FAULT: “The project failed because we didn’t get enough support from the marketing department. They need to do a better job next time.”

YOUR FAULT: “The project failed because I did not mobilize the marketing department effectively. Next time I will change my strategy and make a more effective presentation explaining the importance of their role in the success of this project.”

The moment you think that the problem is “out there” then that thought is the problem.

Related Posts

Stewardship Delegation

The ability to effectively delegate is a valuable skill: Delegation enables you to devote more of your time to higher level important activities.

“Stewardship” delegation is focused on results instead of methods (on the WHAT and not the HOW) and allows the individual to own the work and communicate progress and results at agreed upon intervals.

The Five key elements of Stewardship Delegation

NOTE: Stewardship Delegation often requires training and development of the people that you are delegating to so they are competent enough to rise to the level of trust required to delegate.

1. Desired Results

Clearly specify the results that are expected and their timeline. Focus on RESULTS and not the methods.

TIP: Have the person write you short proposal describing the final results he will delivering and when they will be delivered (or just get them to repeat in their own words what you are expecting)

2. Guidelines and Pitfalls

Identify any guidelines and major restriction within which the person should operate. These should be as few as possible, but DO identify any paths to failure.

3. Available Resources

Identify all resources available to help in achieving the results: List any human, financial, technical, and organizational resources.

4. Accountability

Setup the performance standards that will be used in evaluating the results and the specific times when reporting / evaluation will take place. The individual is responsible for the evaluation and for ensuring it takes place.

5. Consequences of Success or Failure

Specify what will happen – both good and bad — as a result of the evaluation. (Financial rewards, psychic rewards, different job assignments, etc…)

Related Posts

Purify Water in 6hrs without Chemicals or Filters

I’m sure most of you have heard and are aware of the millions of people around the world that lack access to clean water.

It turns out the fix to this problem is AMAZINGLY SIMPLY:

  1. Take an empty transparent bottle
  2. Fill it with water
  3. Leave it out in the sun for 6 hours
  4. Drink the water
The SODIS Process (short for Solar Water Disinfection)

SODIS is a simple procedure for disinfecting drinking water.  Contaminated water is poured into transparent water bottles (glass or plastic) and placed in the sun for six hours.  During this time, the UV rays of the sun kill all the germs.

SODIS water disinfection in Indonesia
SODIS water disinfection in Indonesia

Does anyone else feel that we’ve been wasting a lot of time and money building solar panel powered water purification plants?  All this time we could have harnessed the sun’s rays directly.

This is a great, simple, and inexpensive solution that should have been put into place YEARS ago.  Thumbs up to the SODIS program for running with this.

More Resources About SODIS

Related articles

Polyphasic Sleep for New Parents

Polyphasic sleep refers to the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period (vs monophasic once per 24-hour sleep).  There are some that use polyphasic sleep and alternative sleeping schedules to try to achieve more time awake each day (in the most extreme case – The Uberman – you sleep only 20 minutes every 4 hours for a total of only 2 hours of sleep). Polyphasic sleep recently got an uptick in popularity due to Tim Ferris‘ book “The 4-Hour Body“.

I’m a big fan of stupid human experiments and so I was itching for an opportunity to try Polyphasic sleep.  My opportunity to try came with the birth of my first child — It seemed to make sense (in an insane kind of way): When you have a new baby you are kinda forced to adopt polyphasic sleep (i.e.: You get woken up a lot).  So what better time to give it a try?

However, unlike traditional polyphasic sleepers, my focus was NOT on maximizing my awake time.  My focus was on the reverse: Maximizing sleep time.

Here was my modified sleep pattern:

  • Try and get as much “normal” sleep between 10PM to 7AM.  Don’t force yourself to stay awake, don’t wake yourself up at a specific time, etc… If you can sleep uninterrupted the whole way through, go for it!
  • Once you wake up, you adopt a modified Uberman sleep pattern during daytime hours: Every 4 hours, you take a 20-45 minute power nap.  If you wake up at  6AM, you take a nap at 10AM, 2PM, 6PM, and go down for the count at 10PM.  If you wake up an hour earlier or later, the schedule gets shifted by the same amount.

Tips:

  • Seize napping opportunities: If it’s 3 hours since your last nap, and you have an opportunity to take a nap.  DO IT!  You probably won’t have the chance right at 4 hours.  If you go past 4 hours, take a nap the next opportunity possible.
  • Don’t oversleep.  Once that 45 minute alarm goes off, get up!
  • Don’t forget to nap.  If you skip a nap, it’s very hard to catch up again.
  • Carry an “instant-anywhere-nap-kit”: a blanket, inflatable pillow, eye blind, and ear plugs to allow for instant naps anywhere. (Maybe this is a product idea for someone? The instant nap kit?)

I’m not claiming there is a scientific basis for this, but it worked great for me. I followed this routine for about 2 months (until our baby awesomely decided to sleep 12 hour nights), and I barely felt any effects from the sleep deprivation.

The Four Quadrants of Time Management

 

Time Management Matrix

Everything you do in life can be classified by it’s urgency (Urgent or Not Urgent) and by it’s importance (Important or Not Important). This creates the matrix illustrated above with four quadrants:

  • Important and Urgent – Crises and Emergencies
  • Important but Not Urgent – Prevention, Planning, and Improvement
  • Not Important but Urgent – Interruptions and Busy Work
  • Not Important and Not Urgent – Time Wasters

We often spend our lives focused on the Urgent things instead of the Important things. In business as in life it is extremely important to ask yourself: “Am I doing this because it is truly important or am I doing this because it is urgent?”

Important and urgent things should not be ignored: Crises and emergencies. However, the more time you can spend on the non-urgent but important things (prevention, planning, improvement) the less crises and emergencies you will experience..

Below is a more detailed explanation of each quadrant along with some examples:

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent

Quadrant 1 - CrisisFire fighting mode: Crises, real hard deadlines for important project, health & family emergencies, etc…

These are urgent and important things that you should not ignore. However, spending too much time in fire fighting mode will lead to stress and burn out. You will be caught in a never-ending cycle of crisis management.

The only way to reduce the time you spend in this quadrant is to be proactive and to spend more time on the important things BEFORE they become emergencies (see Quadrant 2 below).

Quadrant 1 Example:

Dealing with a heart attack is an Urgent and Important problem that cannot be ignored (but perhaps by living a healthier lifestyle such health emergencies can be reduced or avoided all together).

Quadrant 2: Important but not Urgent

Quadrant 2 - Prevention and PlanningThis is where you should spend most of your time.

Quadrant 2 is all about planning, prevention, capability improvement, relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, etc…

Spending time on these important things should lead to clear vision and a balanced life, discipline, control, and fewer and fewer crisis situations.

Quadrant 2 Examples:

Frequently buying flowers for your wife/girlfriend “just because”
Eating healthy and exercising to avoid future health issues
Preventative maintenance on your home or car
Reading, Learning, and Education
Forming bonds and strengthening relationships with your friends and family
Self renewal and spending time on things that inspire and uplift you

Quadrant 3: Not Important but Urgent

Quadrant 3 - InterruptionsMany of us spend a big portion of our time in this Quadrant confusing the Urgent things for the Important things.

Interruptions, ringing phones, most emails, etc…  Spending too much time on the unimportant urgent things leads to a very short-term focus with continual crisis management.  Your plans and goals will seem increasingly useless since you are unlikely to have time to devote to them.  Your relationships and reputation will suffer and you will feel victimized with no control over your life.

Quadrant 3 Example:

You have scheduled an important meeting with a coworker 2 weeks ahead of time. This person has very limited time and so you carve out a 30 minute window to deal with a very important matter. As you sit down and start the meeting, your phone rings.

The phone is screaming: “Pick me up! Pick me up! Pick me up!”. Most people will pickup the phone and sacrifice the very important meeting for the likely not important but urgent ringing phone.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important

These are the time wasters in your life.

Spending too much time on non-urgent and not important things can lead to dependence on others for your basics, loss of jobs, irresponsibility, etc…

Quadrant 4 - Time WastersQuadrant 4 Examples: 

Trivial busy work
Mindless web surfing
Watching too much TV
Lots of pleasant activities.

How do I use this to make my life better?

Where we are and where we want to be

A. Identify Quadrant 2 activities.

  • Write down all the Quadrant 1 and 3 activities you routinely do (all the Urgent stuff)
  • Write down how you can prevent these things from reoccurring or from becoming emergencies in the first place: These are your new Quadrant 2 activities.

B. Free up time for Quadrant 2 activities

  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 4 and STOP DOING THEM!
  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 3 and stop doing them too.  This is more difficult as it involves saying NO to people.
  • You should now have time to spend on Quadrant 2

C. Schedule time for Quadrant 2Schedule Time for Q2

  • Schedule time to do Quadrant 2 activities.
    (Put them in your calendar just like a meeting).
  • DO THE THINGS YOU SCHEDULED!

D. Reduce Quadrant 1

  • The beauty with spending more time in Quadrant 2 is that it should slowly chip away at all your Quadrant 1 activities.
  • As you reduce your Quadrant 1 activities you have more time for Quadrant 2,, creating a fly-wheel effect.

Simple, right?

Not quite.  The Question “What is important to me?” usually does not have a simple answer.

Example 1: Going to a Sporting event
(Hockey, Baseball, Football game, etc…)

Which quadrant does this fall into?  The answer is it depends on YOUR priorities and what is important to YOU. On the surface it looks clearly like a Q4 item – a time waster.  Not urgent and certainly not important.

But, it could be a Q2 event (important) if you consider the event to be an opportunity to spend quality time building relationships with your parents, children, or friends .

Example 2: Watching TV

Clearly another Q4 item: A time waster.  Or is it?  If watching TV is a stress reliever for you and serves as a way to wind down and chill out after a hectic day, it could very well be a Q2 activity.  Just as long as you frame it correctly and consume it in the right way.

To be successful with this method you must have a very clear understanding of what is important to you, what your long term goals are, etc… For more information about how to plan your week around this framework, see my blog post on How I Plan My Week.

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