• Joe Cooke

Solving the time paradox


I’ve always been a fan of Steven Covey’s simple time management matrix that separates activities into four categories: Urgent and Important, Not-Urgent and Important, Urgent and Not-Important and Not-Urgent and Not-Important. I’ve been using it for years, and sometimes when people ask me how I have time to be a father, a teacher, an author, a musician, a school board president and still have time to relax and have fun, I want to get out my daily planner and point to it and say, “Here’s how.”

So, here it is. I do this every morning. I get up at four or five. Journalize three pages in my unlined notebook. Make my to do list for the day, carrying over anything undone from the day before, breaking tasks out by Quadrant, making sure that everything I categorize as Not-Urgent and Important is somehow related to a long-term goal or value. It’s simple and effective. And then, during the day, I do what is on the list, as much as I can within reason, with balance and careful consideration. Over the years I’ve tried to do what Covey suggests, get about 80% of my activities into QII – Not-Urgent and Important.


I check off items as I complete them, add things that come up during the day (for instance, I am writing this blog post instead of any of the ones on the list, because it seemed to be yearning to be written – still contributes toward goal #4).

This is easy and fun – I treat it like a game. Some things start to gravitate, over time, toward urgent, like changing the oil in my car (which is important but I’m not sure what goal I am pursuing there, other than financial stability, because if I ruin the engine in my car it would cost me much). If there is something in QII I can’t relate to a stated goal, then I take a look at it and ask myself, what goal would this be leading to if I had such a goal? Maybe you have “Go fishing” on your QII list, or “Go shopping in Portland for a new dining set”. Don’t be bashful. If you are planning to do something, put it on your list. You may be surprised about what you are really working toward, about what your values really are.

Do you want to more clearly define your values and your goals? Take a look at what you are doing right now. That’ll tell you.



©2017 by Joe Cooke