It is known by many names: The 4 Quadrants of Time Management, Eisenhower Matrix/Box/Principle or just the Time Management Matrix. Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix offers a way to easily sort activities into 4 groups along the dimensions of difficulty and importance.
Although often credited to former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, the time management tool was widely popularized by Stephen R. Covey in his seminal book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. At its heart, it is “just” a way to categorize activities along the dimensions of difficulty and importance. This categorization primarily goes back to a single sentence in one of Eisenhower’s speeches. In his book, Stephen Covey expands the concept by mapping the activities on a 2×2 matrix, thereby creating four quadrants:
- Quadrant I: Important + Urgent
- Quadrant II: Important + Not Urgent
- Quadrant III: Not Important + Urgent
- Quadrant IV: Not Important + Not Urgent
He gives advice on the various benefits and pitfalls of each quadrant. Short version: Quadrant II with the important but not urgent activities is the most important one for a successful and fulfilling life.
Want to learn more? My article “The Time Management Matrix” describes each quadrant in detail and offers a strategy for how to find the time to focus on Quadrant II.
… or read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It includes a lot more than just Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix. Although first published in 1989 its advice is still applicable today. Don’t be fooled by its title, though. It teaches nothing about habits. A more apt title would be “The 7 Principles of Highly Effective People”. It’s still a great book, despite its title. 🙂