How is it that some people and in particular business owners seem to always have all the time in the world and the time to do all the things that most people never find the time to do?

This is an essential tool for a business coach to use to maximise their time and a skill that a good business coach can help develop in business owners so they can be more effective and efficient in their business.

We use The Urgent v Important Matrix

What is it and How Do You Use It?

The Urgent Important Matrix is a very effective productivity and time management tool that will assist you to maximize your time in your business more effectively.

It’s scope is truly limitless for a wide spectrum of coaching opportunities from career, executive and business coaching to life and even spiritual coaching.

It’s also a great model to share with young people and anyone who is simply disorganized in their day to day activities to assist them being more focused on what is truly important and urgent.

In fact, it’s an engaging experiential tool to utilize in a workshop or seminar and the number one time management tool practice by any quality business coach at the top of their game.

So why do we as Business Coaches and Advisors think that The Urgent v Important Matrix is such an invaluable tool?

Former US President Eisenhower used this so-called “Eisenhower Principle” to organize his tasks. He is quoted as saying, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

It was later on that Dr Stephen Covey (of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” who then took these concepts mainstream, he then began calling it The Urgent Important Matrix in his famous book.

Having a simple grid, this identifies tasks according to their particular significance as well as urgency:

  • Quadrant 1 “Crises“ URGENT and IMPORTANT
  • Quadrant 2 “ Goals and Planning“ NON-URGENT and IMPORTANT
  • Quadrant 3 “ Interruptions “ URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT
  • Quadrant 4 “ Distractions“ NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT

Exactly what do most of us suggest by Important and Urgent when we are considering these quadrants?

  • Urgent Tasks: These tasks cause us to react and not be proactive; most of us quickly cease what we’re currently doing to work on the new urgent task instead.
  • Important Tasks: These tasks lead us towards our overall mission, vision or goals. It is also important to note that these key actions often require planning, organization and initiative so you can take action.

If we take a more in depth look now at the individual Urgent Important Matrix quadrants we will see how a good business coach maximises their time and is able through example to show these principles to their clients:

Quadrant 1 “ A Crises” or Important AND Urgent Tasks

What: Tasks that usually fall into this quadrant will include things like deadlines, urgent meetings, pressing problems, crises as well as fire-fighting problems that flare up from time to time throughout the day. This can be anything from an overdue project or a report to customer complaints, a severe bottleneck that has occurred or even a fragmented business process you KNOW you should have fixed earlier right through to a burst water pipe or an ailment such as a nagging toothache that hasn’t been dealt with!

How we feel: When we spend a lot of time in this quadrant most of us come to be harassed and burned out. This burnout is one of the most common issues where business owners now feel that they are trapped by not supported by their business.

Action: You MUST minimise or eliminate the time you spend in this quadrant by better prioritizing, delegating and planning i.e. spending more time in Quadrant 2.

You may need assistance identifying and clarifying your priorities and to better brainstorm ways to timetable chunks of time pertaining to these important tasks.

A good business coach would suggest that you may also find it valuable to identify and focus on completing the “big rocks”(as described by Stephen Covey) first before working on the pebbles and sand which otherwise can consume your lives. Here is a great YouTube clip that explains this concept in an old clip that Stephen had shot during one of his conferences

Quadrant 2 “ Goals and Planning” or Important and Non-Urgent Tasks

What: This really is the big picture quadrant. These actions direct us towards our big goals and projects and can also include team building, relationship and planning, issue prevention and risk assessment as well as your important health and recreational activities that help us maintain equilibrium in our day to day lives such as a doctor’s appointment or going to the gym.

How we feel: After we begin to commit a lot of our time in this quadrant we begin to feel calmer and more at ease with ourselves and those around us, we deal with most issues before they even arise and are much more likely to have strong assistance from others around us. All of this signifies a lot fewer crises to contend with later which is good for our clients, their careers AND the organisations who employ them.

Action: You should try and maximise the time spent in this quadrant. You must set defined time aside to plan, develop relationships, prepare for problems and maintain your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Quadrant 3 “ Interruptions” or Urgent and Not Important Tasks

What: The Tasks or activities in this quadrant will always disrupt or distract us from our important tasks. It could be anything from co-workers stopping by for a conversation, unnecessarily checking emails, answering the phone to other people’s interruptions and irrelevant meetings that keep us busy being busy but don’t help us become busy being productive.

How we feel: I have seen firsthand that when we spend a lot of time than we should in this quadrant most of us get the sense we’re not accomplishing much or really even getting anywhere. Often then, as a result, we react to others unkindly and feel caught, frustrated and stressed out which causes others to react to us unkindly, with frustration and a high level of stress. I am sure you can see that this downward spiral isn’t productive or conducive to a happy workplace or worklife

Action: You must at every opportunity begin to lessen the amount of time spent in this quadrant by first researching as well as prioritizing the task list and then focusing on the high importance tasks first and foremost. You may also require assistance to identify and question or begin to delegate other people’s interruptions.

Quadrant 4 “ Distractions” or Not Urgent AND Not Important Tasks

What: Useless and counterproductive time spent in this quadrant are always distractions from the tasks at hand. They can vary from excessive or unnecessary non work related emails or even just phone calls from friends, social media usage to any activity we involve ourselves in that wastes time and detract from necessary work.

How we feel: These distractions can often cause us to be late. By not completing assignments or tasks on time it can often cause tiredness, stress and simply increases the inability to be truly effective.

In our personal lives areas like excessive TV or internet surfing at home can also easily fall into this category. Sometimes, at an extreme, too much time spent in this quadrant can result in frequent and completely unreasonable unfavourable self-talk, creating depressive symptoms and leading to people being sacked!

Keep in mind however, that some of these distractions can leave us feeling strong, energized and empowered in carefully measured doses, so we’re definitely not saying people need to be focused all of the time, just to maximise the best use of time we need to be mindful of when, where and how often we side track ourselves. Remember its all about moderation and one of my favourite sayings is “a moment enjoyed is never a moment wasted” – just temper how much and how often you do it.

Action: You must eradicate over time the time spent unconsciously in distractions and stop deluding yourself. Use the time you have reclaimed from this quadrant to improve other areas and improve your relationship with yourself and others, take up or renew the activities that make you truly happy and present.


You can simply sketch the grid on a sheet of paper and complete the tasks that fall into each specific area or design something more exotic but remember simple things are often the best.

When you are Reviewing The Urgent Important Matrix

The true essence of this simple but powerful Urgent Important Matrix is to:
1 Consciously give priority to your most important tasks first and then to plan as well as delegate often so that we can tackle problems BEFORE they become urgent crises and blow out your day.
2 Become more conscious of your regular interruptions and distractions so that together we can decrease or eliminate them over time. This usually empowers people to manage better their limited time resources and to get their priority tasks done in a more enjoyable and less stressful way.

Final Word

Please contact us with your feedback or comments regarding this information on time management or discuss how we can help you and your business in this area. Remember, how much time you spend in each quadrant will be determined by several things including your personality and drive, how excited you are about your work and life and of course the type of work (and even sometimes the employees), that you have.

Everyone needs to discover their own unique way of working through this major challenge that works for them and that is our job as your business coach to assist you to do that.

To Your Success


John Millar

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