Quadrant II: Making those other plans

Important but not Urgent

I love to plan. Making lists, brainstorming, hypothesizing. I love it all. If I could design my perfect day, I wouldn't do a single urgent thing. Rather, I'd spend the time getting done anything that I thought could become urgent in the near future. Everyone would think I was so completely on-top of my game that they'd probably hate me.

Well, just a little, anyway.

From the Time Management Matrix, the common set of Quadrant II activities include:1

  • Preparations
  • Presentations
  • Value Clarification
  • Planning
  • Relationship Building
  • True Recreation
  • Empowerment

Ideally we should spend the majority of our time here in Quadrant II, handling activities that are important but have low urgency. This is wise; it serves to keep your deliverables and responsibilities from actually becoming urgent. Once something is urgent, you're stuck. If you want to keep your job/family/life/etc., you have to do it NOW. Taking care of that looming task when it's still in Quadrant II (or ideally, IV) empowers you. It puts you squarely in charge of the tasks about which you are already aware. I don't know if this is what is meant, in the list above, by "Empowerment", or if that's about empowering your delegates. I'll go ahead and presume I'm right and it's about empowering your own ability to do things in a particular order. If I'm wrong... meh.

I spoke about a previous life previously, in which I spent a vast majority of my time in Quadrant I. One of the most helpful things I ever did in that life was to shut my door for an entire day and re-plan absolutely every facet of the next week. I took the time to stop and plan how my week would follow, giving myself about 30-40% of my time to deal with all of those urgent and important activities that were bound to attack me as the week went on. It meant all of the difference to me in the world. David Allen talks about this a bunch in Getting Things Done, though he doesn't explicitly link it to the TMM. The closest analogue is when he discusses task collection and the process of emptying one's head. This is an interesting enough process that I'll write about it another time. It has, recently, led to the creation of a few sets of goals and milestones, such as:

  • A list of 101 things to accomplish in the next three years.
  • A list of achievable work-related goals for myself for the year.
  • A list of (hopefully) achievable goals for my team for the year.

The point of all of this is simple - make the time to take the time to plan at least enough to get you through the next short period of time. A proper plan (or at least a proper set of goals) gives you the flexibility to adjust your workload as you encounter the more urgent tasks along the way. This is what I meant when I started to talk about breaking down your list of projects into smaller, quickly completed, tasks. That, at the core, is what GTD is all about, for me anyway. I've read posts by several other users of the GTD methodology who center on an important concept - Getting Things Done is about finding the best possible framework for you to get said things done efficiently with overall lower stress. Each person is different, so any blanket approach will fail some of the time.

...as much as I want to think otherwise, blogging will always be a Quadrant IV activity. I suppose that, until someone wants to pay me to do so (who would ever want to do that??), it's smart that it remains something I do with bits of free time.

  1. I made an argument for relationship building being a Quadrant IV activity, but other than that, this is a good list with my favorite “preparations” squarely at the top.

Jan 21st, 2008