Stephen Covey: Effectivity vs. Efficiency

happy ethnic woman sitting at table with laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

According to Stephen R. Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, one of the seven habits is putting first things first.

“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

If you’re a manager of a team, you might sometimes confuse efficiency with effectivity.

Most time-management techniques focus on increasing efficiency, not on improving effectiveness. “first things first” means rigorously prioritizing everything you do so that the important things are always taken care of first, while everything else is put aside and then dealt with or delegated later.

1 stephen Covey’s 4 QUADRANTS

woman in black coat
Photo by Christina Morillo on

A good place to start is by categorizing all your tasks according to two dimensions: urgency and importance. This gives you a 2×2 matrix with four quadrants:

quadrant one: important and urgent tasks, like crises that need to be dealt with right away.

quadrant two: important but not urgent tasks, like writing your mission statement, taking care of your mind and body, building important relationships, and planning for the future.

quadrant three: urgent but not important tasks, like, a phone ringing while you’re working on something else.

And quadrant four: not important and not urgent tasks like checking your instafeed.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the importance of quadrant two. These actions are the ones that will have an enormously positive impact on your life. And when you work enough in quadrant two, you’ll find far fewer crises emerging in quadrant one. For instance, when working with a group of shopping-center managers, the author found that they spent less than five percent of their time building relationships with store owners and were constantly busy dealing with quadrant one issues like reports, calls and interruptions. Encouraged by the author, they decided to start spending a third of their time with the store owners, and the effect was enormous, higher satisfaction and lease revenue.

A good first step in implementing this habit in your life is to identify a quadrant-two activity that you’ve been neglecting – one that would have a significant impact on your life if you did it well – and then commit in writing to doing more of it.


woman wearing white sleeveless top
Photo by Valeria Ushakova on

One of the most important Quadrant II activities we can do is to practice self-renewal.

Stephen Covey calls these exercises “sharpening the saw” and says that if you work on these dimensions of your life for one hour a day, “no other single hour of your day will return as much as you invest in sharpening the saw.”*

  • Self-renewal exercises work to renew the four dimensions of the human personality: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
  • Physical – Participate in some kind of balanced, moderate, regular program of aerobic exercise. Stretching for flexibility and doing resistance exercises for strength are also very helpful.
  • Mental – Exercise your mind through reading, creative problem-solving and writing.
  • Social/Emotional – Practice empathetic communication and cooperation, seeking to serve others.
  • Spiritual – Spend time on the things that deeply inspire and uplift you. For some it’s religion and prayerful meditation. For others, it’s great literature or music.

If all these dimensions work congruently with each other, tremendous energy and effectiveness can result.

My challenge to you is to try to spend an hour a day on self-renewal and see if you feel a difference and if others see a difference.  Some of the activities can be done naturally throughout the day, while others will need scheduled time. It’s time well-invested, however. It will improve your self-esteem and positively impact your relationships with others.

Stephen r. Covey
  • “I’ll exercise tomorrow.” 
  • “I’ll take a long lunch with friends next week.”   

But really, these activities are the most fun! 

Many people plan 51 weeks for their next 1 week vacation.  Use that same focus for daily relaxation.  Take a moment today to block off time in your calendar to schedule some Quadrant 2 self-care .  .  . time with friends, coffee on the deck, vacation, massage, yoga . . .

What are your favorite Quadrant 2 activities?  What is your favorite thing to do? Please post below!!

3 This Post is Brought To You By

Enter sponsor title and e-mail.
Enter website URL. Sponsor title will be hyperlinked with this URL.
loading |  Uncategorized | quadrant ii, stephen covey
0 0 vote
Article Rating
Author profile

About Maida
She is Zipsite's all around Zipsiter. Only clocks out when she can barely stand. She sings, bakes, and tries so hard to be fit. But don't judge, she can literally strong arm you no problem. She's currently involved with eCorp, Contrib and VNOC, besides being a Brazilian Jiu Jit Su practitioner.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share this Page

So we promise if you share this page, you get a free social media boost on us 🍺!




Everybody needs a helping hand and we feel that we could all get anything we want, even stop this pandemic, by just reaching out.



Would love your thoughts, please comment.x