Actions express priorities.

In my early years of teaching, one of the ideas that sustained me was writer Annie Dillard’s:

How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.
— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (Harper Perennial, 1989)

I was inspired to reflect periodically, taking stock of what I was doing and what it meant to me. As a facet of public leadership, such reflection is essential because leaders show what they value by how they spend their time.

Many variations of the IMPORTANCE x URGENCY quadrant grid appear in leadership training materials, thanks chiefly to Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey popularized a time-management strategy that draws on President Eisenhower’s wise distinction between tasks that are actually important and those that seem important because they present with great urgency.

PERSONAL INVENTORY EXERCISE: As you look at the quadrants below, take a few minutes to consider how you spent your time during your most recent workday. Include non-work tasks as well, like breakfast, chores, and personal reading. In which of the categories below would you locate each task?


[Quadrant diagram illustrations and design by Roy Chambers. Copyright 2015 by Peter Horn, Ed.D. All rights reserved.]

Peter Horn