Taking action and the Action Matrix

How do you take action? Specifically, how do you decide to take action? How do you decide what to take action on?

The best way I have found to decide where to take action is described by Dr. Stephen Covey. Dr. Covey relates the use of a “quadrant system”. You see, every action in life can be classified by these two things: the level of importance, and the level of urgency.

The trick is to decide how urgent and important certain actions are, and make the decision consciously. Many people (including myself) find themselves on ‘Auto Pilot’ during the day… and seem to accomplish a great deal. And then they realize that in fact, most of the things they accomplished were not the important ones.

Take sales people for instance. The reason that 20% of sales people get 80% of the sales is because the rest of them are taking action on things that appear urgent, but are not important; or even worse, are neither important nor urgent! For example, when I first entered sales, it amazed me that although we would all start work at 9.00am, many of us would not go to our first presentation until noon! That is three hours of doing things which do not relate to the primary goal of a salesperson – to sell! It may be having a coffee and a snack, or it may be washing the car, or it may be sitting around the office talking… in all those cases, these things have their place, but that place should be BEHIND the primary function, which is to SELL.

I used sales people for example because in their jobs they have a possible way to measure the level of success they are achieving. This behavior is true of many people in many positions.

The bottom line is that many actions we take in life appear to be urgent, but perhaps not important. The actions we should be spending our time on are the important ones; the ones that help us achieve the results we are really looking for.