Successful people spend lots of time doing #2. No; not that kind. Yes; I did just make a potty joke in my blog on professional development. My 8 year old son will be so proud of me. J But, it’s true. In many ways the key to professional success involves investing much more time doing #2 as described by Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. This book is a must read and should be part of your professional development library.
The book contains a tremendous practical wisdom but one of my favorite nuggets is the Covey’s 4 quadrants for categorizing your time. Imagine a box with 4 quadrants. Quadrant 1 is important and urgent. Q2 is important and not Urgent. Q3 is not important and Urgent. Q4 is not important and not urgent.
Sounds basic. Sadly I had never heard of this technique until I was in my 40s.
Quadrant 2 is the key. Few of us spend enough time doing things that are important but not urgent. Imagine a task that you define as super important but that doesn’t have to get done tomorrow or even next week. Life and procrastination often get in the way of getting these tasks done. Most people who are even moderately successful are able to handle Q1 where the important and urgent stuff goes. Squeaky wheels that are burning tend to get dealt with. Most of us spend way too much time in quadrants #3 and #4. Many of the tasks should either be delegated or ignored.
True leaders and almost anyone who experiences great success in their chosen profession (or sanity in their personal schedules) eventually stumble across ways that help them spend a much more time doing #2.
I’m a big fan of Seth Godin and my company name is inspired by his book “Linchpin: Are you indispensable”. It’s one of my favorite professional development books. Godin doesn’t talk about Covey’s 4 quadrants directly but he uses an example that I might help you put this in context. Godin uses Sir Richard Branson as an example of a ‘linchpin’ in a few places in Godin’s book. Branson of course is the head and founder of Virgin Group which is a collection of more than 400 companies. Godin points out that most of Branson’s job could easily be done by other people. In context of ‘being an indispensable linchpin’ Godin explores how the Branson’s value to his companies come in a relatively small number of hours here and there when Branson comes up with his next big and indispensable idea. The right 60 minute block of time chewing on an idea has the potential to add a few hundred million in revenue to the bottom line of his companies.
What’s your next big idea? You might not have time to think of it and you certainly won’t have time to build your idea into reality unless you intentionally and deliberately set aside time in your schedule to focus on #2, the things that are important but not urgent.
I’m not ashamed to admit I love inventing and sharing ideas but that I’m not always the most elegant or efficient in committing said ideas to paper. I try to keep these L.E.A.P. Think postings short so that you can consume the material quickly. Here’s a useful and well written blog on Covey’s 4 Quadrants that I stumbled upon as I was thinking about this topic and organizing my notes and thoughts. Check it out.