Stop Wasting Your Life (Quadrant 2)

“I’m too busy to exercise.”
“I don’t have enough money to save.”
“I don’t have time to read.”
“There’s never enough time in the day.”
“I don’t have enough energy to go for a run.”

Have you ever said these types of comments? You are not alone.

Many times there are things I know I should be doing to improve myself and my life, but I just can’t seem to make it happen. I often feel like I am overloaded on my time and my resources.

This is something that we all feel. Most of us live very full lives. I don’t mean “full” in a positive way. Rather, I mean that there never seems to be enough space or time for all of the things we need or want to do. For example:

  • Time: There is never enough time in the day to go to bed feeling completely accomplished.
  • Space: Our closets, no matter what size, never seem big enough for all of our clothes.
  • Storage: Our smartphones constantly remind us that we have used up all of our storage.
  • Resources: There is not enough money at the end of the month to save, invest, or give.

We even fill up our stomachs so much at dinner time that, like in the Monty Python, we can’t even eat one wafer thin mint more. (Watch the clip if you don’t know the reference, but please excuse the profanity.)

And so we live this way. The American Way: at full capacity. No extra time. No extra money. No extra energy. 

That is where Quadrant 2 comes in to help us prioritize and improve. Quadrant 2 is a concept from Stephen R. Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The concept is that each task or obligation can be categorized into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. The image above explains quite seamlessly. Take a second to look over it again.

In summary, Quadrant 2 is about realizing that:

  1. Some things are important, but not necessarily urgent.
  2. Some things seem urgent but are not one bit important.

Quadrant 2 is about identifying what is important vs. urgent and prioritizing accordingly. It’s about creating margin in your schedule so that you don’t have to ask, “where did the day/week/month go?

Covey’s explanation of Quadrant 2 is all about time management, but I am applying it more liberally here. We live every aspect of our lives in the wrong quadrants, and it leaves our days looking something like this:

You wake up late and run out the door to work, wishing you had got more sleep.
The roads are full as you fight traffic.
At work, you feverishly respond to emails while desperately trying to balance distractions and maybe finding time to do real work if the day permits.
You stay at work until 6pm, and then can’t make it to the gym, even though you have thought about going all day.
You leave work exhausted and hungry, so you head home to over-eat and watch 30 minutes of Netflix.
When you finally make it to bed, you spend the time scrolling through your iPhone before finally falling asleep to wake up and do it all over again.

Living life this way is perilous. Take it from me – I have done it many times.

Instead, you (and I) have to make time to self-improve.

It’s not urgent, I know, but it is important.

Here’s Covey’s take: 

“Once you make time for the Quadrant 2 activities, everything else falls into place. Your schedule frees up, you feel happier and more optimistic. You excel at work and make more money, and you fill your time self-improving instead of filling time spending money. Your relationships improve because you improve. You feel better about life and sleep better and move around easier.” – Covey

Time to reflect:  What activities are you spending your time, energy, and resources on because they feel urgent, even though they are not important?  Put those aside.  Carve out more time for Quadrant 2, and less time for the others.  The result?  You will be happier, healthier, more skilled, and smarter.

Start to evaluate every action, activity, and commitment:
Is this Quadrant 2? Or am I wasting my life?

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