Merrill Covey Matrix

Goal: Create an Efficient Task List

Many of us are overwhelmed by our to-do lists, and work hard each day to accomplish just a few of our countless tasks. However, we tend to focus on urgent items while disregarding the importance of planning for tasks that are necessary to reach our overall goal. This negligence will lead to even more stress in the long run, as everything will eventually become urgent if not prepared for. Fortunately, Merrill Covey Matrix, based on Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill’s description in their book First Things First, allows you to evaluate the urgency and importance of your tasks. The goal of this activity is to prioritize your to-do list in order to plan ahead and work efficiently. Play Merrill Covey Matrix with your team at work, key partners, or customers to clarify the purpose and value of your tasks and to discover which items should be minimized or eliminated.

The Game

Draw a 2×2 matrix on a large white board or poster. Label the axes as followed:

[list style=”disc”]

  • 2 left cells – Urgent
  • 2 right cells – Not urgent
  • 2 top cells – Important
  • 2 bottom cells– Not important

[/list]

Distribute pens and plenty of sticky notes to your players, and allow 5 – 10 minutes for players to write to-do items on the post-its: one per note. When everyone is finished, have players present their tasks to the group. As a team, collaborate to identify where each to-do item should be placed on the matrix. Then, once all of the notes are posted, rearrange the tasks in each cell in order of importance. Start thinking about how you can use the organization to make your to-do list more efficient. Keep in mind the value of each cell:

  • Cell 1: Urgent, important – these tasks should be at the top of your to-do list
  • Cell 2: Not urgent, important – these items are likely to be neglected, but are necessary for long-term success. Set aside time each week to focus on these in order to be more productive. We suggest making this cell a different color so you will remember its significance.
  • Cell 3: Urgent, not important – these tasks suck your time and are often the result of poor-planning. They should be minimized or eliminated.
  • Cell 4: Not urgent, not important – these items are trivial time-wasters that should be eliminated

Collaborate to clarify the value of the items and to identify which team members will be responsible for each task. Write down the new order of your to-do list, but make sure to take a picture of the chart or leave it up so you can refer back to it.

Why It Works

While we are all busy working through our to-do lists, we may not be doing so as efficiently as we think. Play Merrill Covey Matrix to identify the purpose and value of your tasks and to minimize or eliminate time-wasters. Plan ahead to avoid unproductive busy work and to accomplish your goal in a productive manner.

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