Moving Into Quadrant II
The first generation of time management does not even recognize the concept of priority. It gives us notes and “to do” lists that we can cross off, and we feel a temporary sense of accomplishment every time we check something off, but no priority is attached to items on the list. In addition, there is no correlation between what’s on the list and our ultimate values and purposes in life. We simply respond to whatever penetrates our awareness and apparently needs to be done.
Many people manage from this first-generation paradigm. It’s the course of least resistance. There’s no pain or strain; it’s fun to “go with the flow.” Externally imposed disciplines and schedules give people the feeling that they aren’t responsible for results.
But first-generation managers, by definition, are not effective people. They produce very little, and their life-style does nothing to build their Production Capability. Buffeted by outside forces, they are often seen as undependable and irresponsible, and they have very little sense of control and self-esteem.
Second-generation managers assume a little more control. They plan and schedule in advance and generally are seen as more responsible because they “show up” when they’re supposed to.
But again, the activities they schedule have no priority or recognized correlation to deeper values and goals. They have few significant achievements and tend to be schedule-oriented.
Third-generation managers take a significant step forward. They clarify their values and set goals.
They plan each day and prioritize their activities.
As I have said, this is where most of the time-management field is today. But this third generation has some critical limitations. First, it limits vision — daily planning often misses important things that can only be seen from a larger perspective. The very language “daily planning” focuses on the urgent — the “now.” While third generation prioritization provides order to activity, it doesn’t question the essential importance of the activity in the first place — it doesn’t place the activity in the context of principles, personal mission, roles, and goals. The third-generation value-driven daily planning approach basically prioritizes the Quadrant I and III problems and crises of the day.
In addition, the third generation makes no provision for managing roles in a balanced way. It lacks realism, creating the tendency to over-schedule the day, resulting in frustration and the desire to occasionally throw away the plan and escape to Quadrant IV. And its efficiency, time-management focus tends to strain relationships rather than build them.
While each of the three generations has recognized the value of some kind of management tool, none has produced a tool that empowers a person to live a principle-centered, Quadrant II life-style. The first-generation note pads and “to do” lists give us no more than a place to capture those things that penetrate our awareness so we won’t forget them. The second-generation appointment books and calendars merely provide a place to record our future commitments so that we can be where we have agreed to be at the appropriate time.
Even the third generation, with its vast array of planners and materials, focuses primarily on helping people prioritize and plan their Quadrant I and III activities. Though many trainers and consultants recognize the value of Quadrant II activities, the actual planning tools of the third generation do not facilitate organizing and executing around them.
As each generation builds on those that have preceded it, the strengths and some of the tools of each of the first three generations provide elemental material for the fourth. But there is an added need for a new dimension, for the paradigm and the implementation that will empower us to move into Quadrant II, to become principle-centered, and to manage ourselves to do what is truly most important.
The Quadrant II Tool
The objective of Quadrant II management is to manage our lives effectively — from a center of sound principles, for a knowledge of our personal mission, with a focus on the important as well as the urgent, and within the framework of maintaining a balance between increasing our Production and increasing our Production Capability.
This is, admittedly, an ambitious objective for people caught in the thick of thin things in Quadrants III and IV. But striving to achieve it will have a phenomenal impact on personal effectiveness.
A Quadrant II organizer will need to meet six important criteria.
Coherence: Coherence suggests that there is harmony, unity, and integrity between your vision and mission, your roles and goals, your priorities and plans, and your desires and discipline. In your planner, there should be a place for your personal mission statement so that you can constantly refer to it. There also needs to be a place for your roles and for both short- and long-term goals.
Balance: Your tool should help you to keep balance in your life, to identify your various roles, and keep them right in front of you, so that you don’t neglect important areas such as your health, your family, professional preparation, or personal development.
Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas of life. But can it really? Perhaps it can for a limited time in some areas. But can success in your profession compensate for a broken marriage, ruined health, or weakness in personal character? True effectiveness requires balance, and your tool needs to help you create and maintain it.
Quadrant II Focus: You need a tool that encourages you, motivates you, actually, helps you spend the time you need in Quadrant II so that you’re dealing with prevention rather than prioritizing crises. The best way to do this is to organize your life on a weekly basis. You can still adapt and prioritize on a daily basis, but the fundamental thrust is organizing the week.
Organizing on a weekly basis provides much greater balance and context than daily planning. There seems to be implicit cultural recognition of the week as a single, complete unit of time. Business, education, and many other facets of society operate within the framework of the week, designating certain days for focused investment and others for relaxation or inspiration. The basic Judeo-Christian ethic honors the Sabbath, the one day out of every seven set aside for uplifting purposes.
Most people think in terms of weeks. But most third-generation planning tools focus on daily planning. While they may help you prioritize your activities, they basically only help you organize crises and busywork. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities. And this can best be done in the context of the week.
A “People” Dimension: You also need a tool that deals with people, not just schedules. While you can think in terms of efficiency in dealing with time, a principle-centered person thinks in terms of effectiveness in dealing with people. There are times when principle-centered Quadrant II living requires the subordination of schedules to people. Your tool needs to reflect that value, to facilitate implementation rather than create guilt when a schedule is not followed.
Flexibility: Your planning tool should be your servant, never your master. Since it has to work for you, it should be tailored to your style, your needs, your particular ways.
Portability: Your tool should also be portable so that you can carry it with you most of the time. You may want to review your personal mission statement while riding the bus. You may want to measure the value of a new opportunity against something you already have planned. If your organizer is portable, you will keep it with you so that important data is always within reach.
Since Quadrant II is the heart of effective self-management, you need a tool that moves you into Quadrant II. My work with the fourth-generation concept has led to the creation of a tool specifically designed according to the criteria listed above. But many good third-generation tools can easily be adapted. Because the principles are sound, the practices or specific applications can vary from one individual to the next.
Becoming a Quadrant II Self-Manager
Although our effort here is to teach principles, not practices, of effectiveness, we believe you can better understand the principles and the empowering nature of the fourth generation if you actually experience organizing a week from a principle-centered, Quadrant II base.
Quadrant II organizing involves four key activities.
Identifying Roles: The first task is to write down your key roles. If you haven’t really given serious thought to the roles in your life, you can write down what immediately comes to mind. You have a role as an individual. You may want to list one or more roles as a family member — a husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter, a member of the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. You may want to list a few roles in your work, indicating different areas in which you wish to invest time and energy on a regular basis. You may have roles in church or community affairs.
You don’t need to worry about defining the roles in a way that you will live with for the rest of your life — just consider the week and write down the areas you see yourself spending time in during the next seven days.
Here are two examples of the way people might see their various roles.
- Manager New Products
- Manager Research
- Manager Staff Dev.
- Manager Administration
- Chairman United Way
- Personal Development
- Real Estate Salesperson
- Sunday School Teacher
- Symphony Board Member
Selecting Goals: The next step is to think of two or three important results you feel you should accomplish in each role during the next seven days. These would be recorded as goals.
At least some of these goals should reflect Quadrant II activities. Ideally, these short-term goals would be tied to the longer-term goals you have identified in conjunction with your personal mission statement. But even if you haven’t written your mission statement, you can get a feeling, a sense, of what is important as you consider each of your roles and two or three goals for each role.
Scheduling: Now you look at the week ahead with your goals in mind and schedule time to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to produce the first draft of your personal mission statement, you may want to set aside a two-hour block of time on Sunday to work on it. Sunday (or some other day of the week that is special to you, your faith, or your circumstances) is often the ideal time to plan your more personally uplifting activities, including weekly organizing. It’s a good time to draw back, to see inspiration, to look at your life in the context of principles and values.
If you set a goal to become physically fit through exercise, you may want to set aside an hour three or four days during the week, or possibly every day during the week, to accomplish that goal. There are some goals that you may only be able to accomplish during business hours or some that you can only do on Saturday when your children are home. Can you begin to see some of the advantages of organizing the week instead of the day?
Having identified roles and set goals, you can translate each goal to a specific day of the week, either as a priority item or, even better, as a specific appointment. You can also check your annual or monthly calendar for any appointments you may have previously made and evaluate their importance in the context of your goals, transferring those you decide to keep to your schedule and making plans to.
Reschedule or cancel others.
As well as empowering you to Put First Things First, Quadrant II weekly organizing gives you the freedom and the flexibility to handle unanticipated events, to shift appointments if you need to, to savor relationships and interactions with others, to deeply enjoy spontaneous experiences, knowing that you have proactively organized your week to accomplish key goals in every area of your life.
Daily Adapting: With Quadrant II weekly organizing, daily planning becomes more a function of daily adapting, or prioritizing activities and responding to unanticipated events, relationships, and experiences in a meaningful way.
Taking a few minutes each morning to review your schedule can put you in touch with the value-based decisions you made as you organized the week as well as unanticipated factors that may have come up. As you overview the day, you can see that your roles and goals provide a natural prioritization that grows out of your innate sense of balance. It is a softer, more right-brain prioritization that ultimately comes out of your sense of personal mission.
You may still find that the third-generation A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 prioritization gives needed order to daily activities. It would be a false dichotomy to say that activities are either important or they aren’t. They are obviously on a continuum, and some important activities are more important than others. In the context of weekly organizing, third-generation prioritization gives order to daily focus.
But trying to prioritize activities before you even know how they relate to your sense of personal mission and how they fit into the balance of your life is not effective. You may be prioritizing and accomplishing things you don’t want or need to be doing at all.
Can you begin to see the difference between organizing your week as a principle-centered, Quadrant II manager and planning your days as an individual-centered on something else? Can you begin to sense the tremendous difference the Quadrant II focus would make in your current level of effectiveness?
Having experienced the power of principle-centered Quadrant II organizing in my own life and having seen it transform the lives of hundreds of other people, we are persuaded it makes a difference — a quantum positive difference. And the more completely weekly goals are tied into a wider framework of correct principles and into a personal mission statement, the greater the increase in effectiveness will be.
Returning once more to the computer metaphor, if course 1 says “You’re the programmer” and course 2 says “Write the program,” then course 3 says “Run the program,” “Live the program.” And living it is primarily a function of our independent will, our self-discipline, our integrity, and commitment — not to short-term goals and schedules or to the impulse of the moment, but to the correct principles and our own deepest values, which give meaning and context to our goals, our schedules, and our lives.