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By setting the right priorities, you can enjoy your work and get some much needed time off.


How do you set foolproof priorities?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” — Goethe

This is a nice thought from an old German philosopher.

But how do you actually decide which things are the most important?

In this short article, you will learn:

  • how to decide what is most important.
  • based upon those priorities, what to do.
  • finally, how to enjoy your day and enjoy your vacation:-)

Step 1 — decide.

So the first step is to decide.

Remember, you can’t manage time — you can only manage yourself.

But what tool can you use to manage yourself?

Start by asking yourself these two questions:

  1. What one thing could I do (something that I’m not doing now) that, if I did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in my personal life?
  2. What one thing in my business or professional life would bring similar results?

You may wonder where these excellent questions come from.

They come to us from life and business guru Stephen Covey.

Years ago, Covey began gathering information about why some men succeed while others don’t.

And what he found is pretty eye-opening.

He found that men who worked from a place of self-management were the most successful.

So what Covey did next was to codify self-management into a powerful matrix, which looks likes this:

Priorities Matrix Covey

In this matrix, there are four quadrants.

Let’s take a look at the first two quadrants in some detail.

Notice that Quadrant I is both urgent and important.

As such, it focuses on  significant results that require immediate attention.

In other words, putting out fires.

We all have some Quadrant I activities in our lives.

But Quadrant I consumes a lot of people — don’t let it consume you.

People who live mostly in Quadrant I are crisis managers who don’t get much time to breathe.

Prioritize Quadrant II

But notice that in Covey’s matrix, Quadrant II combines the non-urgent with important.

This little piece of mental real estate is the heart of effective personal management.


Because Quadrant II deals with things that are not urgent, but are important.

It deals with things like

  • building relationships
  • writing a personal mission statement
  • long-range planning
  • exercising
  • preventive maintenance
  • preparation

— all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren’t urgent.

So the first step in setting foolproof priorities is to decide to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II.

Step 2 — do it.

Not surprisingly, the challenge of step 2 is to actually do it.

How can you say no to all of those fires you feel called to put out?

Or, for that matter, how can you say no to a ringing phone or 221 marginally important emails?

We need some of those distractions in our lives, don’t we, so we can feel important?


But if you will spend the majority of your time in Quadrant II — “not urgent-important” things — you will find that at the end of the day — certainly at the end of a week or month or year — you’ll be a much happier, more successful person.

Try it.

At first you’ll hate it, and then you’ll love it.

It will make your decision making and your priority setting so clear and easy.

Step 3 — enjoy your day and enjoy your vacation:-)

Here is the amazing part.

If you do decide to spend more of your personal and business time in Quadrant II, you will find that you actually have more time.

It seems totally counter-intuitive, right?

Saying no to all that stuff outside Quadrant II sounds impossible.

But I promise you — if you’ll commit to using this tool to set priorities in your life, you will have more time than ever to do the things you like to do — including taking more time off to enjoy your life.

And lastly, it’s foolproof.

Take a close look at Quadrant II in the matrix.

If there is some part of that quadrant that you don’t understand, feel free to write me at

Tell me whatever details you care to share, of the problems and deadlines you are facing.

In return, I’ll be glad to give you feedback so you can set foolproof priorities that will get you smiling.