Many individuals and businesses struggle with time management. However, using a time management matrix can make all the difference. We’ll show you how to create one in this article.

Poor time management can result in wasted time at work and negatively impact a company’s bottom line. Therefore, it’s necessary to have reliable time management systems to drive productivity. You can eliminate time wasters and turn employees into more effective people with the proper measures.

One of the best tools to improve time management is Stephen Covey’s time management matrix. With the help of this solution, you can prioritize urgent tasks and reach long-term goals more effectively.

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What is the time management matrix?

Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and famous leadership consultant Stephen Covey developed this helpful tool.

The Covey time management matrix is a framework that allows you to triage tasks and projects to boost overall efficiency and get the most important work done quickly.

You can use the time management matrix to categorize tasks based on their importance and urgency. Organizing your task list with these factors will help businesses focus on the highest priority tasks that require their immediate attention.

Business team using a time management matrix to reduce long nights and overtime | Hubstaff

Quadrant 1: Urgent and important

This quadrant addresses the most urgent and important problems. Businesses can tackle the most time-sensitive issues and mitigate risks through sufficient planning. If companies are proactive, they’ll be able to avoid the potential issues that come from making last-minute decisions.

Quadrant 2: Not urgent yet important

The second quadrant of Covey’s matrix focuses on scheduling for long-term development and strategy by concentrating on non-urgent but importanttasks. You should still devote plenty of time to these items — as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “what is urgent is seldom important, and what is important is seldom urgent.”

Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important

The things in this quadrant are urgent but not important. Quadrant III tasks are time-bound but tend not to move the needle on projects. If possible, delegate or defer these items.

Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important

This quadrant consists of items that are neither urgent nor important. Ask some tough questions about these tasks — if they’re non-essential, should they be clogging up your to-do list? Will completing these tasks provide value to your business? If not, consider eliminating these tasks.

Time Management Matrix Example

UrgentNot urgent
ImportantQuadrant I (Urgent and Important)
Crisis situationsPressing deadlinesEmergenciesCritical meetings
Quadrant II (Not Urgent but Important):

Long-term planningGoal settingRelationship-buildingPersonal developmentExercise and health activities
Not importantQuadrant III (Urgent but Not Important):
Unnecessary meetingsInterruptionsSome emails and phone callsSome pressing matters that can be delegated
Quadrant IV (Not Urgent and Not Important):
Social media scrollingUnproductive or irrelevant meetingsMindless web surfingLow-priority daily tasks

Understanding and managing tasks within these quadrants is vital to effective time management and prioritization. A task management tool can help you delegate tasks and ensure critical tasks are your focus. Using a productivity tool can help set clear habits and ensure you are delegating tasks in order of task importance. 

Who should use Covey’s time management matrix?

Covey’s time management matrix is ideal for professional and personal time management. Employees, business leaders, and others can use a template to help them improve their time management skills, preventing procrastination and creating a better work-life balance.

For example, businesses can assign various tasks to each quadrant and delegate them to different employees. A strategy like this can help optimize operational efficiency and keep employees from wasting time. Therefore, the company can more effectively grow and surpass less efficient competitors in its industry.

People using a time management matrix to better manage different time-sensitive tasks | Hubstaff

Employees can also use the time management matrix in their personal lives. The matrix can help them get more critical and urgent tasks done, allowing them to make the most of their day. This allows for more time for their families or favorite hobbies without the shadow of other tasks looming over them.

How to create and use the time management matrix to prioritize tasks

Here are some simple steps to implement Covey’s time management matrix:

Step 1: List all of your to-do tasks

The first step is to write down all of the tasks you need to complete. You can use a time management app or a manual to-do list template to help with this. Don’t spend too much time on this part — list each item and include a summary.

Step 2: Establish deadlines for each task

Once you’ve made a complete to-do list of all of the tasks to complete, you must set specific deadlines for them. You’ll need to address the jobs with the closest due dates, after which you can eventually tackle or eliminate the ones later on the calendar.

Step 3: Prioritize tasks based on urgency

The next step is to determine which tasks are the most urgent. Urgency isn’t only about deadlines — urgent tasks include those which require long waiting periods or approval chains, extended lead times, or which are blocking others’ work.

Step 4: Prioritize based on importance

After gauging the urgency of your tasks, you can begin sorting them based on importance. You can identify mission-critical projects and rank them over minor tasks as you go along.

Step 5: Assign tasks to each quadrant

Now, place each task in the appropriate quadrant based on where they rank in terms of priority and importance. The tasks that are the most urgent and important will take top priority in quadrant I. Meanwhile, less urgent but important tasks will go into quadrant II. Urgent but less important tasks will fit in quadrant III. Finally, place all unimportant tasks that aren’t urgent in quadrant IV. After completing this step, you can start using the time matrix to complete tasks daily, weekly, or monthly.

Step 6: Repeat this process regularly

To get the results you want, repeat this time management process regularly. You may need to review and update your tasks as business needs change.

You can also assess your performance and determine precisely how the time management matrix helped improve efficiency and mitigate risk. Based on what you learn, you can then make the appropriate adjustments to your schedule and tasks.


By properly implementing the time management matrix, you can more effectively manage time and increase work efficiency.

Whether for business or personal use, this technique can prove invaluable when working to manage your time better. The best way to fully utilize Covey’s time management matrix is to regularly list and prioritize your tasks. You can then decide which areas are worth focusing on and which to give less attention to in the long run.

Category: Employee Productivity