2006-05-23 3:23 AM

Al Gebra Terrorists

I’m not talking about fundamentalists sects (or sets). I’m talking about those who remember enough high school algebra to spread dangerous memes.

I promised in the last blog post to share some of my impressions and spin on First Things First. This is as close as I can get tonight. For more of my own metaphor that has been inspired by First Things First please join the newsletter.

Warning: This is a rant, contains at least one valuable lesson, and has geeky math references. If any of these things bother you please read quickly so you can get over it that much sooner.

You may recall some bits of algebra from somewhen in your past. If so you are more likely to recognize the Cartesian coordinate system presented throughout Mr. Covey’s works where he creates a continuum of urgent and/or important tasks. Why does this matter to anyone but Wayne?

Covey has gone through the trouble to set up a horizontal axis and vertical axis (urgency, importance), he uses the correct terminology (quadrants), then he goes and numbers them randomly. This would be like he was playing golf and lined up his putt perfectly, kept his head down, then decided to kick the ball off into the sand trap.

The first time I ran across his diagram (probably in 7-Habits) I went through a multitude of reactions ranging from doubt (“it must be a typo”) to outrage (“Descartes is rolling in his grave!”) to my current resignation tinged with pity. Why pity? Because he was so close to having his numbering add to his metaphor instead of being arbitrary!

As it stands “Quadrant I” is the Urgent/Important, and “Quadrant II” is the Non-Urgent/Important, “Quadrant III” is Urgent/Non-Important, and “Quadrant IV” is Non-Urgent/Non-Important. (I’ll replace this paragraph with a diagram if it is still this clear in the light of day.)

Covey emphasizes the fact that people spend much of their time in Quadrant I because it is urgent and that if they spent time in Quadrant II they would be able to leverage that Q2 time and reduce their Q1 time. He also discourages time spent in Q3 or Q4 since they are not important.
Makes sense, right?

Well, what happens if we number them the Cartesian way leaving everything else the same. Quadrant II will be Urgent/Important, Quadrant I Non-Urgent/Important, and Q3 and Q4 stay the same. This minor change means that Covey could have encouraged people to prioritize based on Quadrant number: spend time in Q1 then you don’t have to waste it in Q2 and on down through Q4. This would have not only satisfied the mathemagicians, but also would have made it more usable for the general population. (I almost said that it would have made it more memorable, but I remember it well enough to rant about it…)

The unintended bonus of my abbreviation (Q1-Q4) is that is allows me to use the ambiguity of Quadrant versus Quarter. How nicely the metaphor continues: the more time we spend doing the Important things (Quadrants 1 and 2) at the beginning of the year (Quarters 1 and 2) the less time we have to spend on the Non-Important things (Quadrants 3 and 4) later in the year (Quarters 3 and 4).

I guess it all comes down to follow through.

Until next time: remember what is important and keep your eye on the ball!

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan No Comments »

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