4 Boxes, 1 List, a Better Life

You’re 2 Questions Away From Happiness

When you’re life is a disorganized mess, the energy drain sucks. Literally. It sucks the life right out of you. Making progress on your top priority doesn’t suck! It makes you happier and less stressed. Here’s the problem: your top priority is important, but it’s usually not urgent.

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

In the past few weeks, we’ve nailed that clarity an antidote to fear, that working on priorities make us happier, and we’ve learned how to know what’s most important (not just urgent). Now, a quick “down and dirty” way to know your next action on each priority.

Every task gets two quick questions:

  1. Is this urgent? (this moves left or right)
  2. Is this important? (this move is up or down)

What’s with the left, right, up, down directions? Easy, draw a foursquare box (at B-School we call these “two by twos.”)

Now, ask the two questions above. Your first answer moves it left or right. Your answer to the second question moves it up or down. Then follow the direction.


Depending on where it landed, here’s what you do:

  • Box 1 Knock these out now.
  • Box 2 This is your list for tomorrow (not when you finish box one).
  • Box 3 Give away all you can, schedule the rest later in the week.
  • Box 4 Delete (your life will be better if you have the guts to delete these).

Take courage. Wimpy people keep thinking, I really should… They’ll be disappointed if I don’t… I can’t just… Yes you can! You will soon discover that taking control of your life if far more important than disappointing a few people.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Many people ask you to do something only because they know you will do it. If you tell them “No,” they’ll find someone else. (That’s good!) You must save your best work for your primary team, your family, and yourself. All the others should get in line… until their box comes up!

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  1. Rob:
    Good thoughts and strategies to tackle urgent and unimportant day fillers. I have deactivated my face book and hardly on any social media. Now finding ways to keep abreast the trends and changes in culture and media…any solution for this??

    1. No suggestions on friends, but changes in culture and media–find some great blogs that you trust and that talk about those areas. I have on friend that has a fake facebook account that he only gives to close friends so he can stay in touch with them, but not deal with all the other garbage. You might think about something like that.

  2. i love this. not to mention needed it. can i use this box thing in my next teachers training class?? i’ll tell them it’s yours.

  3. Rob,
    Love the “bottom line that people ask because they know you won’t say no.” Learning how to prioritize and say no is a skill that serves us so well.
    Great blog!

    1. Stacey,

      It’s so true. We’re often flattered when asked on something because we believe we’re the “chosen” person to do it. When it finally became too much and we ask for relief, the response is something akin to “No problem, I’ll find someone else to it.” And, because of the person’s position, they quickly get new “volunteers” who jump at the chance to impress them (as we once did).

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Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. ~ Bill Gates

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose. ~ Bill Gates