Quadrant IV: The Procrastinator's Corner

Not Urgent, Not Important

According to The Time Management Matrix, activities that are neither urgent nor important fall into Quadrant IV, a position that I refer to as "The Procrastinator's Corner". These are the trivial, unimportant things that you do when you don't want to do anything in Quadrants I through III.

This is solitaire. This is reading the news. This is, unless you get paid for it, blogging.

You know you do it. I do it. Everyone does it. We waste time... if we didn't we'd go nuts! Filling the day with high-priority issues without any relief will lead to certain burnout. The human brain can only take so much stress before it pops, so we play minesweeper.1

This is ok. The TMM's quadrants can also be lined up like a slide, from IV down to I. An uncompleted activity in Quadrant IV will eventually trickle down to either Quadrant III (if it becomes time-sensitive) or Quadrant II (if it becomes important).

Minesweeper is probably the exception and not the rule, of course. I personally handle Quadrant IV by living by a suggestion I read somewhere (probably Lifehacker):

When you procrastinate, don't do nothing, do something else that you've been putting off.

This is somewhat similar to the concept of "Structured Procrastination", though admittedly I only found out about John Perry's essay when trying to find the site that originally gave me said advice. It's also a good read on the concept.

One disagreement that I have with the traditional matrix is that I put Relationship Building activities (Networking, Inter-Departmental mingling) in Quadrant IV instead of Quadrant II. This is a personal choice that really comes down to a simple rationale: I already have strong relationships with most of the rest of my company (I know the names of just about every single in-office employee since a majority of them have been hired since I started).

For folks that don't have strong inter-departmental working relationships, getting to know your co-workers should definitely be in Quadrant II! For me, getting to know newer employees might fall into Quadrant II, especially since hiring season is going to be ramping up in another month or so!

Since I'm big on lists, on a particularly slow day in early December, I "procrastinated by thinking about procrastination" - I made a list of several arguably low-effort tasks that can be accomplished when I have free spots of time or need to hop out of Quadrant I and II for a few contiguous minutes. A few examples from this list:

  • Tidying up the office
  • Processing a list of general task collection triggers (more on this another day)
  • Networking (Rocking the LinkedIn, Facebook, Email, etc.)
  • Casual, Job-Related Reading

For the most part, anyone who needs to make a list of such things probably does not have to try to make time for them since inevitably they will want to leave Quadrants I and II often enough that these things will get done anyway.

Personally however, I find that having a list of things I could do if I need a break is very helpful. It keeps me from actually playing minesweeper.

  1. I don’t anymore – I’ve given up video games in 2008.

Jan 7th, 2008