There is a simple tool that can be used for organizing our lives so that more time is available for the things we like to do. It also helps us focus on our own goals, and planning how to achieve them. We can classify all tasks and activities on two dimensions, importance and urgency.
1. urgent but unimportant 2. urgent and important 3. not urgent and not important 4. not urgent but important
3. not urgent
and not important
4. not urgent
When people do this, they generally find that they are spending most of their time in cells 1 and 2, activities that seem urgent but may or may not be important. If we fall behind the pace of contemporary life, we have to spend far too much time in Cell 1, “Urgent but Unimportant”—paying the bills just before they come due, rushing a deposit to the bank to cover them. On a broader scale, if you neglect your child’s emotional needs now, you may have to spend a lot of time later in family therapy or family court.
It’s especially dismaying to recognize how little of our time is spent in cell 4, on activities that may be very important but carry little urgency. Most people realize that, if they were able to address the important but nonurgent items, many of the urgent but unimportant things would take care of themselves. Cell 4 is preventive maintenance: getting the car in for oil changes, having our teeth cleaned, setting up an automatic deduction to pay the mortgage so you don't have to scramble at the end of the month to get the payment in on time, and paying attention to your relationships.