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Source of this time management system?

Years ago a friend showed me a diagram that had four quadrants labeled:


      Urgent          |      Not Urgent
      Important      |      Important
                            |
---------------------------------------------
                            |
      Urgent          |    Not Urgent
    Not Imp.        |    Not Imp.


The idea is that poor time management and prioritization puts you in the left side, but you should try to keep your life on the right side.

Anyone know where this comes from?

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Stephen Covey

MX
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Covey has a few excellent time management ideas.

However, I don't like his books. They are full of fluff talk.

I like Edwin Bliss (or Ed Bliss) a lot. His books are older, but have more practical advice.

MX
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Thanks!

I can't believe I didn't Google that before posting [smacking forehead]

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

How could you google a diagram?

RP
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I googled "quadrants urgent important"

Second hit:
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?FourQuadrants

I guess it was one of those things where asking the question helped me answer it. :)

[shrug]

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

MX,

> Covey has a few excellent time management ideas.
>
> However, I don't like his books. They are full of fluff talk.

As someone deeply interested in Covey's works, I've been for a long time looking for someone to make that statement (anything -ve about his works), so that I could have a discussion and come to know some viewpoints about the 'other' side.

So would you please elaborate on that statement of yours?

PS: I've read "Seven habits of highly effective people" couple of times and am currently going through "Principle centered Leadership"

PPS: I'm open to having this discussion through e-mail instead of this forum if that is required.

T-90
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The last Covey book I read was "First Things First".

The book was somewhat valuable. The main idea is to really think about what is important in your life, and about what you want to achieve, and also if the things you have choosen are good for you.

However, Covey explained this in the first 1/5 of the book. In the rest of the book, he kept repeating this idea in different forms.

I simply got bored.

Also, Covey writes quite a lot trying to convice one to be altruistic, to give to the charities, etc. I'm not against this idea, but that should be my decision. I don't need to read 20-30 pages in each Covey book to convince me that I should also think of other people. It's boring!

Also, about the "Seven Habits" book... indeed, the book contains some useful ideas. It's a decent book.

However, if you read (or listen to, like I did) "Getting Things Done" by Ed Bliss, or read "Getting Things Done" by David Allen (they are 2 totally different books), you will get a lot more practical, useful advice.

The 2 Getting Things Done books above contain a lot more useful information than the "Seven Habits" book.

In fact Getting Things Done by Ed Bliss contains most of the ideas from "Seven Habits" in a form which is more practical, easier to apply, and also contains lots of other advice.

For example, Bliss advises you to reserve large parts of your "prime time" every week for activities that are important, but not urgent.

This is practical advice - I whip out my PDA, and allocate a few large periods of time for those things that are important, but not urgent.

MX - not a native English speaker
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

So, to summarize:

Covey has some excellent ideas.

However there are some things I don't like about his books:

1. The pure information density * of the book is too low.

2. Too little practical information. Too little info I can apply.


* - If I write a summary of a book, and then divide the number of pages of the summary to the number of pages in the book, I get what I call the "pure information density".

MX - not a native English speaker
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I haven't read "First things first" yet so cannot comment about that. But yes, if you take a single habit and expand it into a complete book, there is bound to be repetition.

The major plus point of Covey's works, as I see it, is that he focuses on the Character rather than outlook (Personality).

> 1. The pure information density * of the book is too low.

(Talking about "Seven habits")

Yes and no. Yes because each habit *is* explained in great detail. No because, IMO, for a person coming from the Personality ethic, the amount of time and energy required to understand and absorb each of these habits is large. I believe you can get a concise 4 page summary of the entire "Seven habits" book, and you can even get the gist of what he's trying to explain from that summary. But if you really want to internalize the habit(s) and get to know the real impact that the habit(s) can have on your "effectiveness", that level of detail is required in his book.

> 2. Too little practical information. Too little info I can apply.

(Again talking about "Seven habits")

Ummmm, he does not give specific advise on how to handle specific scenarios, but he does give advise on how to start following the habits in real life. E.g., you mentioned:

> For example, Bliss advises you to reserve large parts
> of your "prime time" every week for activities that
> are important, but not urgent.

Covey has a similar (but more elaborate) chart (The weekly worksheet) where you first identify the important roles in your life and then list down specific activities that you are going to perform in the next week for that particular role.

At some places, he does give very specific advice, e.g. in the "Sharpen the saw" habit, he tells about how physical exercises should be structured etc. But at some places, he gives vague examples and leaves the reader to implement the habit in his daily life. E.g. in the "Synergy" habit, he speaks highly about the concept of Synergy and (very important concept of) finding third alternative. But he does not give any specific advice on how to implement it in real life. Is this the kind of lack of practical information that you are talking about?

Can you give me some more examples from the Ed Bliss or David Allen books?


PS: Thanks for the books reference. I shall add these 2 books into my (ever elongating) list. In general, I'm very wary about self-help or motivational books. Most of them do nothing but try to teach tools and tricks that have lots of glitter and glamour as far as outword appeal is concerned, but very less substance. I'm always on the lookout for reference to some good books.

T-90 (me neither)
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Some examples of practical advice from David Allen's "Getting Things Done" book:


All your TO-DO items, no matter how small or unimportant, must be captured in a system more reliable than your mind.

We shall call this system your inbox.

You can have several inboxes:

- a tray on your desk where you put the items requiring some action

- your palm pilot where you write a TO-DO item immediately after it crosses your mind

- a block notes (if you use one)

If you capture all TO-DO items and projects, then your mind becomes less tense, because you know you don't have to keep the TO-DO items in your mind.

If you get into the habit of immediately writing down a to-do item, then you get less tense.


A project is any TO-DO item which requires more than 1 action. For example, "change the tyres of my car" is a project.

For each project, you should have a "next action".

For example, for the "change tyres" project, the next action can be: "call the garage to schedule the tyre change" or "ask John what brand of tyres is the best".

You don't have to worry about the list of projects. You only have to worry about the next action list.


Also, GTD encourages you to sort TO-DO lists by location, so if you are "downtown", for example, you can look at the list and see all the actions that can be performed "downtown" together.


You should set up a system for "mailing to yourself in the future".

For example, if you find out that you will have to do something in november, or that in november there will be a concert, just put a paper in the november file, and only open and read the november file in november.


GTD by Allen is a very practical book. It proposes a very concrete (and, in my opinion, proven) system, not some abstract principles.

GTD by Bliss is a more abstract book. It has practical advice, but also things like: make sure you reserve time for important things, don't get overwhelmed by urgent things, decide what you want in life, make sure that you are willing to pay the price (do the work) for what you want to do, etc.

"First Things First" and "Seven Habits" by Covey are completely abstract books. They talk and talk, have some good ideas, but don't concern theirselves a lot about practical issues. :-)

I'm writing you this so you can understand the difference between Covey and Allen.

MX - not a native English speaker
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

> I guess it was one of those things where asking the
> question helped me answer it. :)

It is scientifically proven that it really helps because hearing gets different parts of your brain involved (compared to seeing or reading from inside).

Don't know if you knew that, but now you do.  :)

grunt
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Thanks for the example MX. I think essentially what you are trying to say is that the Stephen Covey books are good when you want to impress people with abstract concepts; but when it comes down to improving your own efficiency, you need a book that tells you exactly what you can do to improve yourself.

But, one doubt that came to my mind is, doesn't this come quite close to spoon feeding? What do you think about that?

And the example that you have mentioned is an excellent example. I try to follow those things (at least at my workplace) using MS Outlook. It has "Notes" to note down to-do-things and "Tasks" to set reminders for the future. But as I see it, the example given by Allen goes beyond these simple things. The concept of "next action" in particular is extremely interesting.

I guess I need to read the books you have mentioned before I can discuss this further. In particular I want to find out how are the theoritical concepts explained in the GTD books. Because my viewpoint is that without getting a solid theoritical foundation, going straight into practical exercises will not help that much because the need to follow that exercise won't be that well understood and hence the commitment factor to the exercise might be low.

T-90
Thursday, April 29, 2004

All I can say is that these books helped me more than Covey's books.

I learned several things about how to be more productive, and I am more productive.

However, don't look for a holly grail, tough.

MX
Thursday, April 29, 2004

Thanks for all the valuable input.

T-90
Thursday, April 29, 2004

I could never get past "You must figure out the meaning of your life before you implement my system" in Covey's books.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, April 29, 2004

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