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How to Prioritize Your Life

A prioritization matrix courtesy of the late Stephen Covey can help you figure out your life’s priorities so you don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.?

By
Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #229

Quadrant III: Social Media

Quadrant III is the quadrant of temptation. These are things that aren’t important, but they sure are urgent. When Bernice gets a bucket of chocolate-covered ice cream bars, I suddenly find myself in a state of near panic. “What if they melt while they’re sitting in the lunch room? I’m pretty sure the freezer isn’t working right. We have to eat these before they melt. It’s absolutely vital!”

Not-quite-emergencies often fall into quadrant III. Like social media. “Someone on Twitter just said our product sucks!!! We have to respond to this before it blows up!” Well isn’t that just a kick in the rubber parts?

It’s urgent! After all, in the 21st century, it’s all about being in conversation with our customers. But is it really important? Say you have 10 million customers and only 20,000 Twitter followers. Of the 20,000, 3 are watching their Twitter feed at the moment, because all the rest are too busy playing World of Warcraft. Doing things that are urgent-but-not-important gives us an adrenaline shot, makes us feel productive, but is actually a waste of time. Make sure your social media is genuinely important to your business by measuring it. Otherwise, social media belongs in quadrant III unless proven otherwise.

Quadrant IV: Time Wasters

The final quadrant is the your-mom-would-know-better quadrant. This is stuff that’s neither urgent nor important. Remember World of Warcraft? Yeah, it’s quadrant IV. Along with Real Housewives, American Idol, and the Twilight movies. Actually, the Twilight movies might even be quadrant V, which is even worse.

Quadrant IV activities should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Some meetings can be quadrant IV. A lot of email is quadrant IV. Posting pictures of kittens on Facebook is neither urgent nor important. And neither is getting stoned and inadvertently eating a wall-hanging after mistaking it for licorice. Next time you feel tempted to do something in quadrant IV, do something useful instead, like recommending the short and useful Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts to all your friends. You’ll strengthen your friendships and do good for the world, all at once.

Look over your to-do list today. Note the quadrant each item falls into. Make your top priorities your quadrant I activities, and do your best to toss in a quadrant II activity or two. Say goodbye to anything in quadrants III or IV. You owe it to yourself to spend your time doing the things that matter!

I’m Stever Robbins. I help people orient their jobs and lives around what’s most important, not simply what’s urgent. If you want to know more, visit

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.