Podcast Ep 145 | Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix

Are you struggling to prioritize tasks and maximize your productivity?

The Time Management Matrix, created by Stephen Covey, could be the solution you’ve been looking for. In this podcast, we’ll teach you how to effectively use the matrix to set goals and achieve success in both your personal and professional life. Through real-life examples, you’ll learn how to manage your time in each of the matrix’s four quadrants.

We all have limited time and exactly 24 hours in a day, and yet, some people accomplish more at work and can also have more of a life that they love…. While others may work just as many hours, want the same thing and come up short.

If you want to increase your productivity and better manage your time, this podcast is a must-listen. Don’t miss out on these valuable time management tips and techniques.

Links quoted in the episode:






Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.


Brad Giles  00:13

Hi there, welcome to the growth whispers where everything we talk about is building enduring great companies, companies that matter that last that people enjoy working in, that make a difference and that you enjoy owning, of course, my name is Brett Giles. And as always, I’m joined today by my co host, Kevin Lawrence in Vancouver, Canada. G’day Kevin, how are you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:35

I am good. Actually, I’m not quite in Vancouver today I’m at a place called just outside a place called Kelowna BC about four hours to Vancouver. To be precise, where it’s cold, and snowy and beautiful right now with all the snow on the ground. I’m doing great. Looking forward to today’s show. Something that we’re both quite passionate about. maximizing our time, which we’ll talk about a bit more today. But yeah,

Brad Giles  01:00

late days Good day, we’d like to start with a word or phrase of the day what might be on your mind Kev.

Kevin Lawrence  01:07

Ah, celebrate is the phrase of the day. I was really fortunate in December to celebrate with a client of ours that sold a chunk of their business for a rather very notable amount of money. And we went and we went down to Mexico and a place called point to Mita beautiful little private resort area. And we worked for three days. And then all the spouses came down and celebrated for three days in Mexico in the sun, having some fun, and kind of enjoying the fruits of our labors for all the hard work we’ve done over the years building this company. So it was Enderal gonna continue on but it was a lot of celebration. Celebration, which usually means champagne and, and pinion and being grateful and reflecting and feeling. You know, appreciated. So celebration is in the power of celebration. Celebration is just very good. I found the report. Are you what’s yours?

Brad Giles  02:09

Gratitude? Yeah, just gratitude quite simply. Summer in Australia, getting to spend time with the family getting to Yeah, just getting to appreciate and take stock take a moment to really think about, you know, how fortunate we are on so many, many levels. So, gratitude.

Kevin Lawrence  02:31

I like it. Well, celebration and gratitude are tied together, although you can celebrate without being grateful. But when you put those two together, it’s a magic combination. Okay, so let’s dig into maximizing our time. Let’s talk about the show today. But

Brad Giles  02:49

Oh, indeed. Look, I tell you this, this concept from Stephen Covey, the time management matrix is it’s one of my favorites. And I know I’ve said that before. But the the time management matrix is just it’s so simple. And yet it really does serve the base for highly effective individual and team performance. It really does. And it asks the question, what are you focused on what is consuming your time we look around, and everybody has 24 hours in a day, but some people just seem to get so much work done, they seem to accomplish so much more. And others seem to, you know, the average person perhaps seems to toil and toil and toil, but never perhaps really get that massive traction, that massive motion that they need in the same given time period. We’ve all got 24 hours. So this this time management matrix, it really asks the question, Where is your time going? And how is that aligned with what you really want in life?

Kevin Lawrence  04:07

Yeah, and it forces you to think and be more disciplined in your thoughts, to try our thought and action, to spend more time where it really matters, and to help to manage or catch yourself when you slip out of the stuff that really matters most, although it feels really important in those moments.

Brad Giles  04:30

Yeah, yeah. And so it’s a really simple two by two. That helps you, I guess, frame out, where is your time going? Where is it going? What are you doing? We had a look beforehand, and we found a couple of really interesting stats. The amount of time that people are spending both on Facebook number one on average per day and watching time elevation per day, as I very quickly tried to find that here we are. Yeah, so the data basically said that Facebook global users spend an average of 58 minutes per day, on the platform in 2022,

Kevin Lawrence  05:15

average, average,

Brad Giles  05:18

that’s almost an hour. Okay. And then TV, watching TV, this is only the US for this startup compared to the whole the globe 3.86 hours a day in the US in 2021,

Kevin Lawrence  05:38

which would include normal television and Netflix, but you take those, and you add in, you know, Instagram or other social things, that’s about four hours a day of screen time, or very close to four hours a day of, you know, watching a screen or interview or interacting with a screen. And we’re not saying that TV is bad or social is bad, I will say, I’m very conscious about the amount of time I spend doing it. Because I have highly valuable things to do in my world, whether it’s with my kids, or my parents, or my friends, or my partner, all of that stuff. Um, or it’s things like you and I do on a podcast and other things that we were talking about before the show. It’s also why I deleted Facebook, and this Instagram apps off of my device. Yeah, yeah. Because I found, I mean, some of this stuff is interesting. And you can get sucked, it’s not important. But it’s interesting. And you I can get sucked into hours on that stuff. Because it’s designed to be addictive, and stimulating and suck you in, and it works good. So I want to be clear, this is not about don’t do social media. What we’re talking about is, is I’m going to reference the quadrants here is what’s basically called, you know, quadrant four stuff, or quadrant three stuff, both of which is, you know, in the not important category, it’s not important. And I would say no, what you brought, both of those are not urgent, totally agree, right, like in our lives. So it’s quadrant four, it’s a now you might enjoy doing some social stuff to wind down or TV, they’re like, fine, we’re not saying to do it. But we’re saying, compared to doing something that moves you towards something critical in your world, whether it’s a relationship or project, or who knows what, that isn’t happening in quadrant four. And a lot of us get distracted by all kinds of things that don’t matter in that quadrant of not urgent, and not important, really, there’s no value to it. And you know, and model that we have here, there’s also sometimes that can be, you know, email, or, you know, easy activities that just, yeah, they don’t matter, but they kind of burn up the time. So, you know, in my world, I’m very conscious about doing almost anything, I’m very sensitive, doing anything, that’s not important. It really doesn’t add value to my work, my health or myself, or my partners or friends relationships, then it’s like, Well, why would I? Why would I do it,

Brad Giles  08:27

and molding and I’m a bit extreme, yeah, more than any other decision, the decision for an individual to understand the four quadrants, and to eliminate things that are in quadrant three or four, and work to eliminate things that are in quadrant one that is quite possibly the most impactful decision that you could make. So before we move on, Kev, what I’d like to do is to just for those of you who are on the video, and I realized that not everyone in the audience, we just want to go through very quickly on the screen, what we are actually talking about here. So for those of you on the YouTube video, what you should be able to see is the time management matrix. And so there is a vertical axis and a horizontal axis. The vertical axis says, Is it important or not important in a two by two matrix? Is it important or not important? The horizontal axis says Is it urgent or not urgent. So we’ve got these four quadrants that we’ve been talking about. In a top left hand corner, we’ve got things that are urgent and important. And you might think that’s the most important one, you got to get those important urgent things out the door. We’ve got to hustle, hustle, hustle. But then below that we’ve got things that are urgent and not important. So that is interruptions, some emails, some calls, some activities, some pressing matters. Whereas quadrant one above it might be things input important and urgent. The first one I mentioned, crises, pressing problems, some other emails, some deadline driven projects. So then as we go back down Quadrant for things that are not important, and not urgent, this is where the television, were watching the news, the Facebook, scrolling Instagram, whatever it is, where that from

Kevin Lawrence  10:31

our perspective, some people watch the news because it’s part of their job. And we’re not saying what from our view or in our lives, that would be less important to us. Just to be clear, if we’re different people, different things are important. Yeah,

Brad Giles  10:46

yeah. And probably for the majority of our audience, scrolling Facebook, we’re seeing

Kevin Lawrence  10:51

it for the majority of our audience would agree with that. You’re right.

Brad Giles  10:55

And so quadrant four, not urgent, and not important trivia, busy work, time wasters, Facebook, maybe reading the newspaper, maybe, yeah, watching TV, watching whatever it is, some calls and some emails, and then we get to quadrant two, which is in the top right corner. So this is things that are important, and not urgent. And this is where we’re saying that you’ve got to focus and try to switch your time towards so that is relationship building, finding new opportunities, long term planning, eg strategic planning, or even at a personal level, some other personal goal planning, preventative activities, like exercise, or meditation, or something like that, perhaps personal growth, recreation or some recreation. So these are the things that are not urgent and important. So the job to get what you really want, what we’re saying is that switching from and finding a way over the long term to switch from quadrant one, three or four, as much of your time as possible into quadrant two is what generates the greatest risk.

Kevin Lawrence  12:20

And again, for those that can’t see it, Quadrant Two is important, but not urgent stuff. It’s proactive things you’re doing to build and lay tracks for the future. So in terms of important stuff, if you’re only doing urgent stuff that can be, you know, urgent and important, which is quadrant one, it can be draining, and you’re always firefighting. So it’s almost you’re always reactionary burns a lot of energy, and it can be really exciting too, can be really fun, you get to pull your pull out your superhero cape all the time and save the day. But really, it’s you’re burning a lot of excess energy, getting things done, making a lot of noise, dealing with a lot of drama, and you know, you can win. But ideally, we want the best place to be for success. And to have also a solid, scalable business is more quadrant to where it’s, it’s not as urgent, although it’s still very important. And basically, like Brad talked about staying out of the bottom quadrants three and four, that is just not important stuff. And so if I look at my own world, like what’s in quadrant two, well, quadrant two is, you know, working with my team on their growth and their development, working with, you know, new customers that come along and trying to help find the right solutions for them. You know, time with my family and friends, doing the high quality things that I want. And sometimes it is a lot of planning, it is my planning and personal planning. The urgent stuff is when there’s, you know, an issue with uh, with the IT system, or there’s a challenge with this or a problem with that something that’s come up that seems urgent. I really don’t, I don’t enjoy spending a lot of time in that. It’s like, it’s like I got better things to do. And although there is discipline and again, for me in the not important. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not important. I basically my world, if it’s not enhancing my enjoyment of the moment, or enhancing an important relationship, I generally try to not do it. Yeah, I generally delegate everything else. And that comes right down to like, home repairs, like my rule of thumb is if I could do something to do with fixing something, and it’s gonna bring me joy, great, which is very few things. Or I can teach my kids how to do something. If I can teach my kids and teach them some life skills and stuff like that, then I’d be interested Otherwise, it’s who can i Who can I hire to handle it? Yeah. Because to me, it’s not enhancing me and my life and it’s not enhancing someone I care about life, then generally I’m out. I don’t I don’t want to do

Brad Giles  15:12

  1. So the problem is that, that with most people in quadrant spending most of their time in quadrant one in the workplace on things that are urgent and important. crises, pressing problems, urgent emails, deadline driven, protege,

Kevin Lawrence  15:31

broken systems, service failures, whatever,

Brad Giles  15:33

I love this stuff. Oh, yeah, you know, I’ve done actually, with leadership teams, I’ve worked with a lot of work, where they’ve net percentages into each of these four quadrants. And by far and away more often than not, what you find is that people are spending most of their time in quadrant one, maybe a bit of quadrant two, but very little, like five temps in quadrant two. Yep. And so with that, what is the results that happen when you spend most of your time in quadrant one, and look, it’s stress, it’s burnout, it’s crisis management, you set yourself up to always be putting out fires, and to deal with the next one. And that’s not great. Because that introduces like an adrenaline loop that, that’s very hard to get out of. Yes, and I get stuck. Because it’s like, when you solve a problem, a crisis, it’s rewarding. But then you look for the next one, or you’re not actually working to solve the root cause of the problem might like delegate, or Exactly.

Kevin Lawrence  16:38

And that’s and you just made a key point that abroad, solving the problem is rewarding. You get accolades, you get to be the hero, you get to use your creativity, all of that stuff. But and all those heroics are celebrated in companies, I look at it and go, obviously, we’re not that good at what we do if we need so many damn heroics. It to me makes me to me, it’s like this is amateur hour. We don’t know what we’re, what we’re doing. And as you the point that you made those critical is, when there’s a problem, you should try to trace down to the root, solve the root. So you can prevent 100 future crisis opportunities of this from the same source. And that’s the idea. But that is urgent and not important. Sorry, not not urgent, but important. Laying down better systems or preventing those issues. It takes discipline and time to get out to get away. So it’s interesting I found, and I could tell you 50 different stories. But generally, when we go into a company and start doing strategic planning, they’re spending time almost everywhere, but quadrant two, which is the sweet spot, which is urgent, not urgent, and, and important. There is a lot of unimportant stuff because they can’t tell the difference. And everything is urgent. Generally, it’s an undisciplined operating system, with people trying to do their best. So when we start spending time on planning, which is again, quadrant two, doing the strat planning, as we go through it, I found it’s magically weird. But about the fifth or sixth meeting, which is at about the 18 month mark, right, fifth or sixth quarterly meeting, all of a sudden, it’s a boring frickin meeting. The meetings boring, because we’ve been dealing with all the whack a mole and all the stuff that we’ve been doing to get things fixed. And all of a sudden, there’s no more drama. Yeah, and it’s weird. And sometimes we have a very flat meeting, because we’re you could basically not we’re not running on adrenaline anymore. Now we’re like professional managers. And the metaphor I use is like an aeroplane, when it’s trying to get off the ground. It’s like full throttle, there’s lots of noise and shaking, and it’s burning up a huge amount of fuel to get in the air. What’s in the air glides practically? Like it’s way easier. And it’s like this transit areas, matching things. It’s about 18 months of discipline, to retrain the system and get off the adrenaline and get off the professional Whack a Mole. And let me grab my Superman Cape out of my, my, my my desk drawer. And it’s it’s a different operating system. But we’ve installed disciplines, we’ve eliminated noise, and we built more understanding of surely what is important, and tried to flush out a bunch of stuff that’s not it’s, it’s quite well,

Brad Giles  19:34

there’s there’s one SEO friend of mine, and he had the explicit goal to spend 100% of his time in q2. So he spoke about it quite regularly. He said, I know exactly when I’m drifting to q1, q3 or q4. I know when I’m drifting away. I know you know, I can’t do it all. But you spend time in q2 on things that are Not not urgent and important, is spend time in q2, so that you can have less time in q1. So you carve out a little niche of time, let’s say so then you can, you know, do a root cause analysis as you intended, or delegate something, or hire somebody or whatever it is, so that you can spend a little bit less time in q1. And that compounded over time is where it goes, but this guy had a great business. And he was on this absolute mission, less time in Q one,

Kevin Lawrence  20:36

what he’s really saying is, I’m gonna do my frickin job. The CEOs job is to be in q2, yes. CEO, his job is not in q1, like urgent stuff. If a CEO is involved in urgent stuff regularly, that means their team isn’t strong enough, or the discipline isn’t strong. And the CEOs job is in q2, it is about building the business for the future. So you know, he’s, he’s smart to want to do that. But that is his job. So interesting. I’ll give an example.

Brad Giles  21:10

Sorry, I’d love that. That is just Yeah, that’s great. The CEOs job is to spend all of their time in q2, and to a lesser degree, the senior leaders as well.

Kevin Lawrence  21:20

Exactly, to pull the business towards that disciplined, proactive focus of building a great company, versus anybody can jump in and deal with crisis. And it’s just too much of that is not good. So I’ll give an example. Between q1, which is urgent and important, and q2, not urgent and important. I should know for me, it’s q1 versus q3, it’s urgent. Yeah, seems urgent. One was important one wasn’t, it’s a decoy. So with a client in the strap planning meeting, and then they get an email that comes in from their largest client who was about 20 million in revenue. And this is, you know, a business that did about 100 million in revenue at the time. 20 million was meaningful. And the client was a pain, low margin and demanding. Thankfully, we’ve done some profitability analysis in recently. So we knew profitability by customer by service, everything a beautiful, beautiful work. And I remembered something it was clients, i Hey, CFO, how much do profit do we make a year on this client on the 20 million in revenue? He looks it up in about 20 seconds, which was impressive. He goes 250 grand. Great. Tell them to pound sand. Let’s get back to work. We instantly took what sounded urgent, what was urgent. And because they were making demands, they were demanding further discounts. And, and it sounded urgent and important. But with a tiny bit of data, we decided that it wasn’t important. Make 250 grand a year, which is

Brad Giles  23:11

not worth the effort. Yeah,

Kevin Lawrence  23:13

not is it less than 1% 2.1% profit on it? Yeah, right. It’s an insulting amount of profit. It’s not even pretty well worth talking about for more than a minute or two. Yeah. But it sounded urgent and important. But with data, we realized it’s actually not important. Piss off, let’s move on. Yeah. And someone went and dealt with them professionally and everything else, but it’s understanding the May the true magnitude and again, business, the magnitude of a client is not revenue, its profit. And no, no, if they had said, look, it’s 20 million in revenue, and 5 million a profit. Well, that would have been urgent and important. Because if 5 million a profit at a client if it’s producing 25% profit, so the bottom line, that’s a damn big priority. And I think you know, yeah,

Brad Giles  24:08

yeah, that’s good. That’s good leadership teams can all be stuck in q1 as well. And I’ve definitely seen that the one one team comes to mind actually, and they’re just, they’re a very busy business, if that makes any sense. And one of the problems was structurally, the CFO saw no value investing in the business. Okay, so I know, for those of you who didn’t see that, Kevin just retracted and frowned. He, now he’s all value in investing. But if you know what I mean, it’s like, look, this software is, is from 20 years ago, we shouldn’t be using this. We should have a cloud based system as one single example. We shouldn’t have an on site server. That world has changed like That’s just one single example. And he’s like, look, it works. Why do we need to replace it? Let’s not replace it. And he would just be this block of for everything. And that meant that whilst I gave the example of a server, it happened across all of these areas, which we should have been investing in q2, so that we could free up q1. But being the blocker and stopping and stopping and stopping and stopping all of these investments meant that they just they just got stuck in this vicious q1 loop. And it was it they were always focusing on putting out fires, and just trying to get things to work in the messy systems that they had urgent. And I’m

Kevin Lawrence  25:47

seeing it so much. I’m with you, Brad so many times and truly our work. So if the CEOs job is to be in q2, yeah, our work is to to everything we do pretty well as q2. Yeah, we don’t do like we do, q2, because we know that’s the point. Again, q2 is not urgent and important. That’s the place where you build long term value and enduring great company. So the question for you to think about as you’re listening to us, how much of your time do you spend in q2, which is not urgent, but important things? That’s the ultimate? And the other way, guys, how much of your time do you spend on truly very, very highly important things? And you know, and that’s it for me, I know if I think about this, and I’ve done a lot of work on this over the years, I spend my gosh, 95% of my time above the line on important things. Yeah. Really, like, it’s got to be in the 90s. And then the the q2, which is the not urgent, it depends on how we would define it. Like, you know, for me, you know, brightness is a difference between building a firm and working with my clients.

Brad Giles  27:16

And working on yourself. Yeah,

Kevin Lawrence  27:19

I there’s, there’s a whole thing, how would I split out what’s urgent and not urgent in my world? I have very little that’s last minute reactionary, urgent. Yeah. But I also could divide time between client work and long term building of the framework, there’s a whole other conversation or but so the point of this, but

Brad Giles  27:38

I’d probably encourage the listeners to have a look at or download the Stephen Covey time management matrix, which is from his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And look at those four quadrants understand it, perhaps, and think what percentage of my time is in each of those four quadrants? In my waking time, let’s say? And then, given how you rated yourself, are you achieving the goals that you want? Yeah, then how, if you were to zoom out to like a three 510 year timeframe timeline, how could you shift more of your time into q1, so that you could achieve more of the goals or the things that you really want?

Kevin Lawrence  28:24

Right. And I think that’s why, Brad, that the US in terms of the companies that work with driving strategic planning, forces more time in queue to in terms of non urgent, important, and even with, you know, from your oxygen mask, first, the master plan that we have, where we’re updating lots of clients right now, for next year, where we have, you know, what you want to be true by the end of your life, what do you want to achieve in 10 years, three years, and the next year, just the top one or two things and each just by nature of being connected to that and reminding so that it moves you more in that direction? Because all that stuff? Is q2 stuff? Yeah, right. It’s all not urgent and highly important. So we continually define important with goals, and try to work on it proactively. So we’re not flashed into the urgent. The only time it gets urgent is when you’re not going to achieve a goal on time. As long as you gotta get creative to get it done.

Brad Giles  29:20

But it still comes back to you will then slipping back into q1. And then how do you stop that happening next time?

Kevin Lawrence  29:28

Exactly. And how do we be better than them? It’s important stuff and finding mechanisms to stay to know what’s important. Stay focused on it, and not living in urgent adrenaline based all the time because that gets a little hard on you. Yeah, yeah, great conversation, great conversation,

Brad Giles  29:45

okay to grow.

Kevin Lawrence  29:47

It is a great tool, and I’ve been using that in my mind a lot. And we obviously see how companies build more discipline, and discipline is what pulls you to the right and up. Alright, well thanks for listening today. This This has been the growth whispers podcast with Brad Giles down in Perth, Australia, and Kevin Lawrence in Kelowna BC today to subscribe to the show you just hit that button. Give us a rating if you’re happy with it. You’ve got suggestions for shows, please send us a note as well. We’ll respond to those when we can, for the video version, go to youtube.com just search the growth whispers. Brad and I both have weekly newsletters with lots of great content and we just love to share what we’ve learned and learn from great people like yourselves. You know, Brad, you can find out more about him in his firm at evolutionpartners.com.au and Kevin and his newsletter as well. Lots me Kevin is Lawrenceandco.com. Hope you have a great week. And hopefully your week has a lot of time in that critical quadrant to have urgent no pardon me. Not urgent and highly important. Have a good one.