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tool for better time management

The Covey Time Management Matrix Explained: 4 Quadrants

Eddie CarrilloEddie Carrillo
Eddie Carrillo
Eddie Carrillo

In the age of the smartphone, where an endless stream of distraction awaits us menacingly in our pockets, managing our time is increasingly becoming more challenging. And there are a whole lot of time management techniques out there to make us more productive, but one stands out: The Covey Time Management Matrix.

This tool is particularly useful for better focusing our attention on the to-do list items that matter and ultimately increasing the long-term success of our businesses. Let’s dive in.

What is the Matrix?

The best way to familiarize yourself with the Covey Matrix is to take a look. Here’s what the four quadrants look like, built across two axes:

  • Urgency: Responsibilities that demand immediate attention
  • Importance: Tasks with significant value in relation to overall goals


Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent

These are the items that are likely causing you the most stress, and those that should be prioritized above all else. These are critical to achieving your goals (and your clients’ goals!) and should be handled quickly and efficiently. Tasks that fall into Q1 share these qualities:

  • Quickly approaching deadlines
  • Related to meeting time-sensitive goals
  • Related to eliminating risk

Quadrant 2: Important but Not Urgent

Q2 lacks the urgency that we see in Q1, but these tasks are just as important. Because they don’t involve impending deadlines, you have freedom to breathe and take your time in figuring out how to perform these tasks effectively. Q2 items might:

  • Need planning
  • Be an important piece of overall long-term goals

Quadrant 3: Not Important but Urgent

These aren’t your most important items, but they are time sensitive. These tasks can really throw our schedules and priorities out of alignment because we tend to confuse urgency with importance. Think of answering a work call while you’re having dinner with your parents. Family is the important thing here, but you sacrificed that time to dive back into work when the call could have waited. Some Q3 items might be:

  • Emails
  • Calls
  • Other minimally significant interruptions

Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent

When it comes to effective time management, it’s highly important to know what falls in Q4, because these items are the items you should not be wasting your time on. Classify them as low priority and ensure you tackle quadrants 1, 2, and 3 first. There are a million things that could land in Q4, but here are some common qualities:

  • Not directly related to goals
  • Not super stressful
  • Contribute to time wasting

Getting Value Out of the Matrix

This matrix might not be your be-all and end-all. And it doesn’t have to be. What’s important is finding a technique that helps you become more productive and reach your business and personal goals. I’m a fan of the matrix because it’s an objective-like helping hand when it comes to productivity. But habits of highly successful people vary. If you’re struggling with productivity and unsure of what else to do, give it a try! It just might be the game-changer you’ve needed.

Eddie Carrillo
Eddie began freelancing part-time in August 2020. He got a bachelor's degree in Economics, but working as a consultant taught him that his passion was not in finance, but in writing. Getting started with freelancing can come with a lot of question marks, so he loves writing for other freelancers to help them get their feet in the door and build their businesses. Eddie grew up near San Diego, California, but recently spent a couple years in Madrid, Spain. He's now headed to San Francisco, where he works for Strava as a copywriter.

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