Thinktools (1)

Welcome to a new series called Thinktools. It is a collection of tools used in personal growth, management and political analysis that have in one way or another influenced my life.

My work colleagues often call me Mr. Matrix, although I don’t look like Neo (do I even look like Morpheus?). It is due to my brandishing cool tools here and there to facilitate brainstorming during meetings.

So let me showcase in this series some of them. Let me also include tools that I may have come across in my learning time.

The first Thinktool I am featuring is the Time Management Matrix developed by Stephen Covey, a personal empowerment guru. The tool is lifted from the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” which is the very first ‘self-help’ book I have had.
Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey

Used for the so-called “Habit 3: Put First Things First,” the tool, having four quadrants, is used to classify activities and tasks of an individual person or group with the objective of analyzing towards which quadrants do most of the activities and tasks gravitate. The ultimate goal of the tool is to help a person or group realize the need to minimize activities and tasks within Quadrants I (like emergency meetings), III (like answering an insistent phone call or replying to an urgent email), and IV (like desultory Internet surfing) so that more Quadrant II activities and tasks – the proactive ones – may be planned out.

The tool, according to Covey, represents the evolution of three generations of time management theory (first generation deals in notes and checklists; second generation, calendars and appointment books; third generation, prioritizing activities based on values) around the phrase: Organize and execute around priorities.

Let me define the two words often used in the quadrants – urgent and important. Urgent means requiring one’s immediate attention, without which requesting party may be ‘hurt’ in one way or another or a triggering situation may turn bad or worse. Important, on the other hand, pertains to results. If one thinks that a certain activity or task will contribute to her mission, values or goals, then, that activity is important, indeed.

Covey claims that Quadrant I time management results in stress, burnout, crisis management; Quadrant III, short-term focus, crisis management, feeling out of control, shallow or broken relationships; and Quadrant III and IV, total irresponsibility, fired from jobs, overdependent on others. Whereas, when one delves deep in Quadrant II, she develops vision, perspective, sense of balance, and discipline and figures in few crises as well.

The good thing about featuring this Thinktool is that it reminds me to ‘sharpen the saw’ (that’s Habit 7), that is, revive my habit of monthly and weekly assessing my goals and activities so that most of the latter will gravitate towards Quadrant II.

I likewise recommend this tool to the readers who may feel they lose focus in work and life mentally, socially, physically and spiritually.

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