A friend recently reminded me of a four-quadrant diagram that, I believe, traces back to Steven Covey and emphasizes where most business owners spend their time … versus where they should spend it. It ties in to the concept that you – as a business owner – need to spend more time working on your business than in your business.
Easier said than done.
The words in one of the quadrants (non-colored) identify tasks that are Not Urgent and Not Important. These are busy work tasks; work you do to make yourself look busy or that are simple and easy to accomplish. They can give you a false sense that you’ve accomplished something that day, but when you look back you realize it was wasted time.
Another quadrant (bottom left in grey) identifies tasks that are Urgent and Not Important. These, in general, involve the priorities of others. They have come up against a deadline, for instance, and are scrambling to find solutions. It’s important to them, and urgent because they want your input to handle the urgency of the situation. When you delegate authority, you must also delegate responsibility for making decisions, meeting deadlines, and accepting the consequences of actions.
The third quadrant lists tasks that are Urgent and Important (top left in brown in my diagram). In my book, these tasks are symptoms of crises. It’s a publishing deadline or a situation requiring an executive decision or things will begin to fall apart, such as a public relations crisis. This is probably the most stressful aspect or area of operating your business, and it’s the area where proper prior planning can reduce the stress and the impact of crisis situations. It can be minimized with a plan you should develop in the Important but Not Urgent quadrant (top right in green).
The beautiful “Work On Your Business” quadrant outlines tasks that are Important and Not Urgent. This is where you need to spend the majority of your time, working on tasks that are important to growing your business and moving in the right direction toward long-term profitability … including your eventual retirement or sale of the business. The sense of these items not being urgent enables you to relax and focus on the important nature of your work without that sense of urgency. You can slide into other quadrants as needed, but the most value to your company comes from working in the Important but Not Urgent area.
Try to spend as much time in that quadrant as you can.