I first remember seeing the Priority Quadrant (identified here as “the Eisenhower Matrix”) in John Maxwell’s book “Developing the Leader With You.” Over the years I’ve seen different twists on it in a number of leadership courses. Today I heard Reggie Ogea of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary lead a helpful discussion that yet again incorporated this model in helping Christian leaders develop boundaries in establishing priorities in ministry and life.
As I listened, another pattern for this suggested itself to me. When a person reflects on this matrix, how can it be used to help make good choices when it comes to ministry and other life tasks?
How does a person turn this word maze into something practical and useful?
1st Quadrant: Protect – “Important and Urgent”
Some responsibilities and priorities need to be protected. Self-care is like this. I recently have seen articles that posit “preaching Jesus” and the Gospel over against preaching about self-care. It’s a patently false dichotomy.
Look, the reality is that no one is going to prioritize your health for you, whether it’s your physical, mental, and emotional health or your spiritual health. You are going to have to protect this priority.
2nd Quadrant: Plod – “Important but not urgent”
Some behaviors and commitments do not have immediate due dates, but they come along regularly enough that if we don’t plod at them, maybe a little every day, they will become unnecessarily urgent. This is where our organizational and time management practices become critical. For pastors, sermon preparation comes under this heading.
When I was a pastor I made myself immediately begin preparing for the next Sunday’s message early on Monday morning. Following routines and chipping away at some tasks a little along help us avert self-induced stressful crises. Managing a small side business is heightening my awareness about this. I have to chip away at purchasing, drawing plans, material estimates, and preparation so that when the time comes to shift gears to my woodworking projects it’s not daunting.
3rd Quadrant: Pick – “Not important but urgent”
In my discussion group today, we decided that most of the time these issues are a matter of perspective. I said “pick” here because often other people will approach us with ideas and projects that are important to them, but may not be to us. Or maybe they are not important at that time. We have decide our priorities.
If we respond to unimportant things as if they were urgent, we let other people establish our priorities for us. If I do this often enough, I will become an unhealthy leader. I will let my concern for what others want derail what is best. It requires courageous leadership to stick to what we know we should be doing.
4th Quadrant: Pass – “Not Important and not urgent”
The world is full of these kinds of distractions. We’ll never get anywhere if we are slaves to the internal and external whims and intrusions that would chronically barge in and steal our attention. There are some issues to which we must simply say, “No thanks. I don’t have time for that.”
In a digital world where any and everything is one click away, nothing is easier than being sucked into time-wasting eddies. Effectiveness in leadership always begins with leading ourselves.