I have used Quadrants many times to really help my clients and participants focus on what is most important in their everyday life. I challenge them to live a life hanging out in Quadrant 2.  It appears this activity was popularized by Stephen Covey and created by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Number of Participants: Unlimited
Time:  15-30 minutes
Activity Level:  Low
Props:  Quadrants Worksheet

To determine what is important, not important, urgent and not urgent.

For those who are not familiar with quadrants, here is a picture and a brief overview.

Paradigm Shift

  • In Quadrant 1 (top left) we have important, urgent items – items that need to be dealt with immediately.
  • In Quadrant 2 (top right) we have important, but not urgent items – items that are important but do not require your immediate attention, and need to be planned for.
  • In Quadrant 3 (bottom left) we have urgent, but unimportant items – items which should be minimized or eliminated. These are the time sucks, the “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” variety of tasks.
  • In Quadrant 4 (bottom right) we have unimportant and also not urgent items – items that don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and also should be minimized or eliminated.

Have the participants fill in the Quadrants one at a time as you give them examples for each square. Really dig deep to define which areas of their life fall into different Quadrants. This activity goes perfectly with other time management initiatives that help the participants really break down the things they do on an everyday basis.


  1. Instead of this being a time-management activity, make it a budgeting activity. What are some items that we purchase that are in Quadrant 1 (replacing water heaters, medical bills, etc.)? Quadrant 2 (Savings, Vacation Planning, College Fund)? Quadrant 3 (overdue bills, interest charges)? Quadrant 4 (Video Games, Things from Sky Mall)?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some things you can eliminate from your schedule (Quadrant 4) immediately?
  2. How do some things from Quadrant 3 keep you from being productive?
  3. Can you name the times when you felt most productive? What Quadrant were you in?

Facilitator Notes:

Be prepared with examples for each quadrant and really help each participant brainstorm. This has several practical applications if the participant will truly focus on staying in Quadrant 2.

Have you used this activity? How would you implement it into your program?

Ryan Eller
Founder, Paradigm Shift

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