Skip to content

Urgency-Importance Revisited or the Covey-Rotter Quad

In The Entrepreneurial Engineer I talk about Julian Rotter’s work on the distinction between those with internal versus external motivation. In Stephen Covey’s famous book, he talks about the distinction between matters that are urgent versus those that are important.

The connection between these two authors is this. Matters that are urgent are important to someone other than you (externally motivated) and matters that are important get their importance because they are consistent with your internal motivation and goals. Saying this out loud helps highlight the point Covey was making and helps us name the quadrants of his famous urgency-importance square. Here in deference to Rotter’s earlier work, we call the diagram the Rotter-Covey Square and name the four quadrants something other than I, II, II, and IV.

The upper right quadrant, called the do-it quadrant, concerns matters that important to you and others. There can be little question that these are matters of the highest priority.

The lower right quadrant, called the strategic maximization quadrant, conerns matters that are important to you, but not urgent for others. This, as Covey points out, is an oft-neglected quadrant, but one that should not be neglected. Thus, it is strategically important to rearrangea life to try to maximize time in this quadrant through long-term rearrangment of affairs so that more time can be spent on matters important to you.

The upper right quadrant, called the strategic minimization quadrant, concerns matters that are urgent for others, but not that important to you. Covey points out that for most of us this quadrant can be the dominant quad in our lives. We call it the quad of strategic minimization because it is important to a happy life to try to minimize time spent here through choosing work that gives us a steady dosage of activities that are important to us and others as well as time to do things that are simply important to us alone.

The lower right quadrant, called the tactical elimination quadrant, is the quad of busy work, work that isn’t important to us or others. The best approach here is to just say “no” and tactically eliminate the time spent on items that no one cares about.

Rotter’s distinction between internal and external motivations is an important one, and doing as Covey suggests by relating those to activities and how time is spent can lead to more time, better spent, on more meaningful activities.

Originally posted on The Entrepreneurial Engineer on November 25th, 2006

Back To Top