I spend a lot of time doing things that aren't important to me.

Doing laundry, watching YouTube, reading emails.

Most of the time, they're not meaningful. And yet they take up a huge chunk of my days.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a great book that still has a huge impact on my life. It introduced me to a framework for deciding how to spend your time.

It recognized that activities can have two dimensions: importance and urgency:

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With this framework, deciding how to spend your time can become much easier.

You want to spend most of your time in either Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2. You want to avoid spending time in Q3 and Q4.

So far, so good.

Nothing new here - you just want to do the things that matter.

For me, the real treasure of this matrix is the prioritization of Quadrant 2 activities (important but not urgent).

Quadrant 2 activities are those that you keep putting off because you can do them "another day". Those activities that would be good for you, that have real meaning for you, but you just never find the time. Instead, you spend your time in Quadrant 3, running after things that snatch your time and energy.

To spend more time in Q2, you need more time in the first place. You can find that time in Q1 and Q3 (the stress quadrants) and Q4 (the how-did-you-get-in-here quadrant) by eliminating or automating those activities.

Next, you can try to move tasks from Q2 to Q1 by making them urgent: schedule them, set deadlines, make commitments.

I find that just having a word for these activities is a game changer. If you can say: “This is a Quadrant 2 activity,” then you can prioritize them very differently than if you just thought about practicing piano or meeting up with a friend. They gain urgency just by thinking about them that way.

I hope this framework helps you the next time you are struggling to decide how to spend your time. Check out the questions below to go deeper and have fun! ✨