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Learn How To Decide Now

4 min read

The recurring theme discussed with Leadership Teams in Strategy Execution and Executive Mentoring when it gets to the pointy end is that while the need for change may be compelling, or the destination outcomes aspiring how do we get going? Where do we start? How do we decide? Do you realise how busy we are now?

I get it. It seems to be part of how we all live our lives now. There is a lot on our plates.

It’s like running on a treadmill.

Lot’s of energy use…  Feeling like going nowhere…

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“Every moment of one’s existence one is growing in to more or retreating in to less. One is always living a little more or dying a little more”

–       Norman Mailer

To focus on the new potential requires us to DECIDE.

An interesting observation by Matt Church, Peter Cook, and Scott Stein in their book The Thought Leader’s Practice that the word ‘decide’ comes from the same family of words as homicide, suicide, regicide, and genocide. The suffix ‘cide’ has the root meaning ‘to kill’. Decide literally means to kill off the alternatives. While this sounds confronting the awareness is useful as it is this feeling of having to let some things go that can unconsciously hold us back.

Creating the space is about letting go of old patterns and behaviours to make way for the new.

Most people have heard of the concept of the Important/ Urgent quadrant brought to widespread fame by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The concept is also known as the Eisenhower Urgent-Important Principle as used by General, then President of The United States of America, Dwight Eisenhower.

Using it as a practical tool is always illuminating. Even for those of us that have been conscious planners for a long time. I find it can be useful to utilise in routine cycles such as perhaps the review of one year, preparing for the next. It is simple. It is super useful when we feel we are stuck and there is no time that we can see to take on the new potential.

Taking a good hard look. Perhaps talking it through as a team to see different perspectives. Making it visual so that you can reflect and come back to further refine. I have found Leaders and Leadership Teams are generally confronted at first, then surprised at how much potential to create space in their currently overwhelmed schedule. Don’t just conceptualise this. Do the exercise with your activities across a month or Quarter it is fascinating.

 “The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” – Stephen Covey



“The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” 

– Stephen Covey

Discussion notes of the meaning and impact of each quadrant:

Quadrant I –Important with high Urgency

  • Tasks and responsibilities that are important and on tight deadlines needing immediate attention. Examples include Board Reports, external accreditation, disaster recovery, last minute preparations,

It is not uncommon now for Executives to find a disproportionate amount of time in this Quadrant.   The opportunity is to change the proportion of time in this Quadrant. This opportunity is created through increasing focus on Quadrant 2 – working on the Important before it is urgent. I like to think of this as like a gardener weeding ‘nipping it in the bud before the weed can flower and spread’. My Executive lifestyle metaphor is that it like choosing to invest some time each week into fitness and wellness, or focusing on the work and one day being surprised by having a heart attack and being forced to treat health and wellness with urgency. (This example is a little too real for me having known quite a few people with their lives upended this way.)

Quadrant 2 – Important but not Urgent

These activities you know to be important however we can typically skip acting today without consequences. Examples in this Quadrant could be health and fitness habits, attending to important relationships, developing people and teams, training, succession planning and development, understanding long term trends, building future-ready capabilities  It is often referred to as the Quadrant for long-term development and strategizing.

Quadrant 3 – Not urgent (distractions) with high urgency

Activities that are urgent, without being important.  It is useful to think of the urgency as often coming from proximity, breaking on to our space. Examples can include reacting to the ‘ping’ notification of emails and the plethora of apps not on our mobile phones, or people breaking our time with their priorities and pet topics. This one is often brought to life if the Leader imagines sitting at their desk, trying to get into the zone for some deep work, and then someone steps through the door. They now demand your full attention discussing a topic which is not a priority of yours. To impact this Quadrant the focus is to eliminate from your time. Delegation is also an option here. Developing clear direction and clear role definition is an option here.

Quadrant 4 – Not Important and not urgent

These time wasters should be eliminated from your schedule. On this list I include scrolling on social media, some emails, some out of date meetings, some unfocused and undisciplined meetings

This Exercise will generate many opportunities to DECIDE.

There is room for potential.

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