Task prioritization quadrants

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We get a lot of things to do in our life. However, we simply don’t have enough time to do everything. This is where task prioritization quadrants are important.

There are many methods to prioritize the tasks and ensure every important task finishes on time. In this note, we will discuss one such method, the 4 quadrants method.

4 Quadrants method

4 quadrants method put every task in one of the 4 quadrants. Let’s understand these quadrants one by one.

Quadrant 1: Urgent and important:

This quadrant is also known as the “critical/do now” or “Do” or “Reduce” quadrant. Tasks in this category are both important and urgent and must be done at the earliest possible.

Important means something that achieves some of your life goals. Urgent means it has a tight deadline.

Tasks in this quadrant are generally deadline-driven projects, crises, emergencies, etc. Thus, if we have tasks in this quadrant, we have to do them first.

Our goal must be to have minimal tasks in this quadrant. This can be achieved but finishing tasks in quadrant 2 (important) before they become urgent.

Task planning quadrants

Quadrant 2: Important but not urgent

This quadrant is also known as the “critical/do later” or “Schedule” quadrant.

These are the tasks that are important for our goals but do not have any strict deadlines.

This is the quadrant where we need to focus most. If we do not focus on this quadrant, it will either soon move to quadrant 1. Even worse, it could delay achieving our goal. For example, say I make a goal of writing 100 articles for KAPsNotes. This is important but there is no strict deadline or say a deadline of 3 months. If I do not focus on it for the first two months, it will move to quadrant 1 in the third month or might not be achieved.

Our focus should always be to schedule and do the tasks in quadrant 2.

Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important

This quadrant is also known as the “Not critical but do now” or “Delegate” quadrant.

The problem with most of us is, it is not easy to say “No” to anyone. People will keep on coming to you with the request, that is not at all important to you or your project. For example, useless phone calls, unnecessary activities in the office, friends walking to your desk to discuss useless topics (killing their time) etc.

There could be other examples like the boss assigning you some tasks which is time-consuming but won’t count in your performance review.

This quadrant is just a distraction. I recommend reading a book (summary) of “The Art of Saying No” by “Damon Zahariades”. In short, you must learn to say “No” to the tasks in this quadrant or delegate them to someone else.

If all that fails, wrap it as soon as possible.

Quadrant 4: Nether urgent nor important

This quadrant is also known as the “Declutter” or “Eliminate” quadrant.

I personally call it “the black hole” quadrant. Anything can go in it but will never return.

In real life, we frequently get requests that we simply don’t want to do. They are not important for our goals. Also, they are not urgent and will not harm us or our loved ones in any way.

For example, a request to go to a picnic with friends. This seems good but what if you have to give an important presentation the next day, which can make or break your business/job? I tell my friends politely that I can’t come but they keep on forcing me. Well, I can’t say “no” or the discussion will carry on for hours by multiple friends. I’ll say, I’ll try my best (but I’m sure I’ll not). This is an example of a task in a black hole (Quadrant 4).

Using the 4 Quadrants method

Whenever we get a new task, think about which quadrant it lies. Put it in that quadrant, on a specific date of LiPO and we are done for the day.

Once we reach that day, we will have the task in a proper quadrant and as per the priorities of other tasks, we can rearrange it if needed.

Next steps

This article is a part of Life PowerUser series. If you like this article, you may want to check the Life PowerUser Organizer, where we discussed how to use the 4 quadrants method practically.

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