How much time does your team spend on tasks that propel the business forward? Have you ever felt like your team is always busy but not quite hitting those big goals? 

When we’re juggling a ton of tasks, it’s easy to feel buried and stressed out. We often trick ourselves into thinking everything we do is super important, even when that’s not true. 

So, what do you need to do to manage your time well? The Covey time management matrix offers a solution to that problem. It sorts tasks into four easy-peasy quadrants that help you see what’s urgent and important. It’s perfect for getting past the daily grind and focusing on what moves the needle. 

If you need more structure, successful organizations like Siemens Smart Infrastructure and Walmart Canada use advanced software solutions like Wrike, which allows you to track time automatically and monitor team workloads. 

Uplevel your time management with Wrike start your free trial now.

Read on as we discuss the Covey time management matrix and explain how it teaches you to cut the fluff and focus on what shapes your business. Let’s begin!

Understanding the Covey time management matrix

So, what’s the trick here? Prioritizing! You know those tasks that loom over you but aren’t pushing you forward? The Covey time management matrix helps you say “not now” to those and “yes” to big-picture projects. 

Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” believed all tasks can be categorized based on urgency and importance. Urgency refers to tasks that require immediate attention, while importance focuses on tasks that align with our goals and values. 

Covey’s matrix comprises four quadrants representing a different combination of urgency and importance. 

The four quadrants of the Covey matrix

  1. Quadrant I: This quadrant represents urgent, important tasks that demand immediate attention. These may include deadlines, emergencies, or pressing issues that require immediate resolution. Set clear deadlines, create action plans, and seek support when necessary to combat the stress and pressure.
  2. Quadrant II: This quadrant focuses on important but non-urgent tasks, including long-term planning, relationship-building, and personal development. By proactively planning for these activities, you can invest in your future and improve your overall wellbeing.
  3. Quadrant III: Tasks in this quadrant are urgent but unimportant, such as distractions, interruptions, and unnecessary meetings. Quadrant III tasks should be minimized to avoid wasting valuable time by setting boundaries and practicing effective communication.
  4. Quadrant IV: This quadrant consists of tasks that are neither urgent nor important, like excessive social media use, idle gossip, or aimless web browsing. These tasks decrease productivity and hinder personal growth.

The benefits of time management

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all get the same 24 hours, yet some people seem to zip through tasks while others struggle to check off even one to-do. It’s not magic; it all boils down to how you manage your time. Managing your time effectively offers a lot of benefits.

Prioritize tasks

So, you’ve got a pile of tasks to get through every single day, right? And it’s pretty much like sorting out your emails — some are urgent, while some can wait. Imagine tagging each task with a “right now” or “later” label. That’s prioritizing for you. It’s wise to tackle the big deals first so you’re not scrambling at the last minute and, trust me, your stress levels will thank you.

You can even use any of Wrike’s custom views, like Table, Board, or Calendar view, to organize your tasks as visual cards in customizable columns. The flexibility to switch between different views means you can manage your projects from multiple angles all within Wrike. 

Plan, prioritize, and execute your projects in Wrike start your free trial now.

screenshot of Board view in Wrike

Reduce stress 

Nobody wants to be the person with steam coming out of their ears. When things get too much, you’re going to get burned out. Managing your time means taking a breather, figuring out what’s a must-do today and what can slide ’til tomorrow. A stressed team is a less productive team. 

According to Wrike’s efficiency report, 71% of knowledge workers experienced burnout in the first six months of 2023. 57% of business leaders say their employees have voiced concerns about being overworked. When the mind is clouded with anxiety and stress, creativity and problem solving take a hit.

So, how do you keep stress at bay in the office? You should:

  • Set realistic goals
  • Break down goals into achievable steps
  • Communicate clearly
  • Encourage breaks
  • Promote a supportive culture
  • Encourage team members to speak up when they’re feeling overwhelmed

Boost productivity

It’s Monday morning. You’ve got five days ahead packed with potential. How do you ensure that your team isn’t lamenting over what could have been a productive week by Friday? To be productive as an organization, you have to be intentional. 

Time management is directly linked to productivity. When you effectively manage your time, you can allocate more energy and focus on tasks that drive results. You can make the most of your time by prioritizing important tasks and eliminating distractions. You can also note your energy levels and work rhythms to schedule your most challenging and important tasks when you are most alert and focused.

Improve work-life balance

Do you sometimes feel like you live in the office? Organizations must prioritize having a work-life balance culture. We’re talking about leaving the desk on time so you can hit the gym or catch your kid’s soccer game. And guess what? You can do that when you manage your time well during the day. You don’t always have to be the last car in the parking lot.

As an organization, you can introduce a hybrid model that allows your employees to work a few days in the office and at home. A work management platform like Wrike offers a comprehensive suite of features to streamline project management and collaboration. With Wrike, you can bring your teams together from anywhere in the world, share documents, and communicate in real time. There’s also a time tracker built into Wrike that helps you monitor the time an employee spends on a task.

screenshot of time tracking for a marketing meeting

How poor time management affects your life

You’ve got reports due, meetings lined up back to back, and the CEO wants that presentation done the next day. Sound familiar? Poor time management can have detrimental effects on various aspects of our lives. When urgent tasks dominate our time, we often neglect important but non-urgent activities. This can lead to missed opportunities, strained relationships, and a lack of personal growth. Moreover, we can suffer from chronic stress, burnout, and decreased overall wellbeing. 

When we constantly juggle multiple tasks and deadlines, our attention becomes divided, making it hard to focus. This can negatively impact our professional performance and hinder our ability to achieve our goals. We can get stuck in a vicious cycle of procrastination, where we find ourselves constantly rushing to complete tasks at the last minute. Ultimately, failing to manage your time properly will compromise the quality of your work and cause undue stress.

How to implement the Covey time management matrix

Now that we understand the principles and importance of the Covey time management matrix, let’s explore how to implement it effectively in our daily lives.

1. Identify your tasks

You know that moment when you sit down to work and feel like you’re staring into a sea of tasks? You’re not alone. The first step to mastering the Covey time management matrix is identifying what’s on your plate.  

Start by listing everything — and I mean everything, from that big presentation due next month to replying to an email you’ve been avoiding. It might seem overwhelming initially, but getting it all down on paper (or screen) is surprisingly freeing. You can’t organize what you can’t see, right?

Instead of a scattered mix of notes or a forgotten list in a notebook, task management software like Wrike can help you:

  • Create a digital list of all your tasks
  • Add, categorize, and prioritize tasks, ensuring you have a clear view of what needs to be done
  • Use customizable workflows to match your project’s specific needs
  • Set precise deadlines for each task with Wrike’s calendar integration
  • Assign tasks to team members, share updates, and communicate directly within Wrike

screenshot of custom workflow statuses in Wrike

2. Categorize tasks into quadrants

Now it’s time to play matchmaker with your tasks and the Covey matrix’s quadrants. Be honest and objective in your assessment, considering the true urgency and importance of each task.

  • Quadrant 1 (Urgent and important): These are your “fire-fighting” tasks. Deadlines are looming, and the consequences of not completing these are dire.
  • Quadrant II (Important but not urgent): These are your growth tasks. Planning, strategizing, and personal development hang out here.
  • Quadrant III (Urgent but not important): These are tasks that demand attention because of other people’s priorities.  
  • Quadrant IV (Not urgent and not important): And finally, these are the time-sinks. Spam emails and distracting DMs? This is their home.

You can grab some highlighters or use a digital tool to drag and drop tasks into these quadrants. Visualizing where your tasks fall can be a real eye-opener.

3. Prioritize tasks based on the matrix

Alright, you’ve identified and categorized. What’s next? It’s showtime for prioritizing. With your tasks categorized into the four quadrants, prioritize the tasks based on the Covey time management matrix. 

Start by tackling Quadrant I tasks to address any urgent and important matters. These tasks require immediate attention and should be dealt with promptly to prevent escalating.

Once Quadrant I tasks are under control, shift your focus to Quadrant II activities. Dedicate time and energy to tasks that align with your goals and values. These tasks may be simple but contribute to your long-term success and wellbeing. By investing in Quadrant II, you can proactively prevent tasks from becoming urgent and reduce the number of Quadrant I tasks you have to handle.

As for Quadrant III tasks, it’s important to minimize their impact. Delegate or eliminate them whenever possible. Doing so can free up valuable time and energy to focus on tasks that truly matter. 

Lastly, avoid Quadrant IV activities altogether. These tasks provide little to no value and can be major time-wasters. Instead, redirect your attention and efforts towards tasks contributing to your personal and professional growth.

Common mistakes and misconceptions about the Covey time management matrix

Despite its effectiveness, the Covey time management matrix is associated with some misconceptions and mistakes. By being aware of these common mistakes, you can maximize the benefits of this approach. Here are some common misconceptions/mistakes:

Everything urgent is important 

It’s easy to confuse urgency with importance, especially when your inbox is exploding. Just because something screams for immediate attention doesn’t mean it’s important to your goals. Always ask yourself: will this matter a week, month, or year from now? If the answer’s a “Nope,” it might not be as important as you think.

Overloading Quadrant II

Quadrant II is like the golden child of the matrix — the sweet spot of productivity. But here’s a plot twist: stuffing it can backfire. It’s tempting to load it with all sorts of tasks you wish to do but remember — it’s about quality, not quantity. Too much, and you’ll be back to square one, overwhelmed and underproductive.

Ignoring Quadrant IV entirely

Quadrant IV appears to be the matrix’s “avoid at all costs” zone. But don’t completely ignore it. The trick is not to let it spill over. Sometimes, those mindless tasks (like scrolling through the internet) can be a break for your brain. You just need to keep it in check.

Not revisiting and adjusting

Setting up your matrix and then forgetting about it can be detrimental. Your priorities can shift; what was important two months ago might not be now. Regular check-ins with your matrix keep it relevant and useful.  

How to manage your time with Wrike

Use work management software like Wrike to help you figure things out faster and more efficiently. Wrike organizes your tasks into folders and projects, and helps you clarify their importance and urgency. 

With dashboards, you can easily differentiate between due this week and what strategically aligns with your long-term objectives. Our time tracking tool lets you log hours and manage timesheets effectively. Meanwhile, our powerful AI and automation features mean you can save time on repetitive tasks and concentrate on what truly advances your goals.

Mikhail Naliuhin, Account Director at inDrive, says:

“By centralizing our communication and collaboration in Wrike, our creative teams get more time to work on projects. Now we might have four months’ rather than two weeks’ lead time, so we can produce much bigger, more impressive campaigns.”

Ready to cut time and operational costs? Start your two-week free trial right away. 

Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.