Make a Decision: Prioritize

Make a Decision - Get your Prioritize Straightened out


Life is made up of choices – to decide on an option is to forgo of everything else.

It all comes down to your preferences in life.

What’s most important to you?

                                                                                  What do you truly care about?

What do you think will bring you the most contentment in the long-term?

Do you have something that you care about all the time, or is the extent of your desire limited to this moment? If you’re not doing it right now you either don’t care about it deeply enough, or perhaps you do, but you have ‘forgotten’ it due to being deeply in reaction to homeostasis.

Make a Decision

The word decision comes from the word incision, which means to cut everything else away.  When you make a decision you are forgoing everything else to focus on one thing.

Steve Jobs said that “focus is about being able to say no” to a lot of good ideas and possibilities to focus on a few great ones.  I agree with this statement for at least three reasons:

  1. Spread out your focus shallowly on too many things and your results will turn out completely average in the long-term, regardless of any above average skill you may possess in that area of life.
  2. Success is about ultra-consistency. It is hard to be fully dedicated, committed, and consistent to something if you are doing too many things. You will not be able to infuse the same kind of emotional intensity or passion into many things as you will with just a few.
  3. As a personal preference I don’t do my best work when having to juggle too many activities, nor do I enjoy it as much as doing a few or possibly just one thing. I can spend half a day or even a day doing just one or two activities.

Nevertheless it can be freaking hard to make a decision when presented with many choices – such as when ordering food at a restaurant – not to mention making a decision in regards to your long-term life strategy.

It IS hard to be a focused person who says no to many things to pursue a few things more fully. The paradigm of depth over breadth is not exactly common in the Western world. People feel compelled to be like everyone else, it’s uncomfortable to stand out.

People want to both have the cake, and to eat it. They want both to be great at some skill and to have balanced lives. Excuse me, I mean, they want to be great at MANY things, while having balanced lives.

If they’ve heard about it, they want Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week so that they can do 1000 other things except working.

Gee, I wonder why it doesn’t add up.

There’s just way too much compromise and excuses.

There are too many distractions; and it doesn’t help that our culture is going through the worst time in history when it comes to having a short attention span and ways to pursue instant gratification.


Things which matter most must never be at the mercy at things which matter least


I’m not going to kid you. It is unlikely that your priorities will be completely straightened out in the course of a day or a week.

But what you can do is that you can start to think in terms of Stephen Covey’s quadrant framework shown below. When you form the habit of doing this you’ll automatically identify things in accordance to the different activities and it will, over time as you learn it, drastically reduce the lag time spent in between decisions due to  being unclear about what to do and how the decision will affect you.

This lag time tends to be what takes up the bulk of people’s time actually. And not only that; the longer you wait the less sure you will become and the more risk that you will be distracted and just do whatever seems most pertinent at the moment – such as taking an unnecessary snack or watching an episode of some TV series or surfing Facebook.

So it becomes important to reduce this lag time.

Make a Decision - Get your Prioritize Straightened out

Quadrant 1 activities are both urgent and important. These include deadlines or projects in school or your day job. These are the things that need to be handled first, but rarely produce anything of lasting value in the long-term.

Quadrant 2 activities are important but not urgent. This is where most people spend the least amount of their time. This includes activities such as learning and implementing new things, reading, studying, working out, eating healthy, meditating, and pretty much anything related to personal development. These are the things that will matter most and produce the most value in the long-term. Therefore you ought to spend a few hours daily in quadrant 2.

Quadrant 3 activities are urgent but not important. This is where most people spend the bulk of their time. This would include handling crises, responding to email or phone calls. A lot of GTD books (including The 4-Hour Workweek) are about becoming more efficient as well as reducing the time we spend in quadrant 3.

Quadrant 4 activities are neither urgent nor important. This is where instant gratification such as watching TV, playing video games, texting, using Facebook and social media, and gossiping fit in.. Stop spending time here.

Now it’s your Turn to Make a Decision and Prioritize

Make a list of the things that take up most of your time and prioritize them in accordance to the priority quadrant above. Form the habit of gradually spending more time on the quadrant 1 and 2 activities and less on the quadrant 3 and 4 activities.

By using this framework you will pretty soon change the way you think about things. You’ll become better at categorizing the importance of an activity and this will help you a lot in the long-term. It’s important to change the way you think, because everything stems from there!

What do you spend most of your time on?

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  1. I’ve seen the covey quandrants before, but it was relating to help for procrastinators. I much like the way it was broken down in this article from a more decision-action viewpoint.

    The pamphlet I saw said Quadrant 2 is most likely to be ignored by procrastinators (Studying for exams, writing papers). Quadrant 4 is to an extent (cleaning room). I wasn’t very impressed with the tips it gave to help procrastinators (don’t remember what they were offhand though). The decision-action mentality presented in this website seems more useful to procrastinators if implemented properly.

  2. Ludvig,

    I like the brush up on Covey’s quadrants. It has been a while since I read that book.

    I like what you have to say about prioritizing. Probably because I agree with you. ;)

    The only thing I would add is that quadrant 4 is fine: if you control it. For instance, I have 3-4 TV shows I like. I budget time to enjoy them, and they fit in my schedule. You should spend some time doing the things you enjoy after all.

    Same can be true for all the other time wasters. But limiting is essential. You have to know that if you feel “short on time” THOSE are the things that have to go.

    • I agree with you to a certain extent.

      It really comes down to whether you know yourself or not. In my case I have a really hard time doing what you do. It is usually better for me not to even start to begin with, because my brain’s equivalent of limbic hunger when it comes to instant gratification is very powerful.

      I really enjoy the TV series Mad Men, and I will watch it when it beings airing again. I would probably like to watch other TV series, but I am not going to give myself the chance to try them out because if I do I will have a hard time not watching it all.

      I don’t wish to fight a losing battle :)

  3. Great read! Nice with a brush up on Covey’s four quadrants.

    Did you know that they were “invented” by Eisenhower? And are sometimes also called the “Eisenhower Method”?


  4. Good point. It IS hard to make decisions most of the time. I think a “problem” that you forgot to mention here, is that some people spend too much time in quadrant 2.. I might be one of those people.

    I’m gonna try the quadrant box now, can’t think of a better thing to do on a Sunday ;)

    btw I know you got the framwork from “7 habits of highly efficient people” by stephen covey – but would you recommend the whole book and not just this part?

    • Hey Matt,

      – I don’t know whether that is a problem. Is it?

      – Yeah I would recommend the book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, it’s all good stuff, though this part was the only one that was entirely new to me the first time I read it.
      But I think Napoleon Hill’s “Law of Success in 16 Lessons” is by far the best book on self-development. You can download the original with over 1000 pages through google.

      Cool let me know how it goes with the quadrant. It’s good to do these sorts of exercises every once in a while, I find it makes a bit of difference, especially in the long-term.

      • To me it can be a problem because I forget to do the “quadrant 1” activities that must be done NOW… But I have such a habit for doing nr 2 stuff – such as reading or investing or both – reading about investing ;)

        Ok thanks for the book tips!

        I did the quadrants exercise, took me about 1 hour to do it thoroughly, but it feels really clarifying right now!
        I realized I spend way too much time cooking food… I’m going to start cooking more food per time from now on.. A bit unrelated perhaps.

        btw how do i upload a picture here?

      • I see. Well I guess we’ll see how it turns out in 5 years. Hopefully you’ll have achieved some positive financial results by then :)

        No problem.

        You can’t upload a picture unless you have a wordpress account I believe. My picture comes from “gravatar”.

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