Legitimate Q1 items—the truly high value—must always be addressed first. Yet, defining what is “important” can be tricky. Bosses and customers usu- ally have preferred standing, so their opinions are typically adhered to. (Covey suggests that less than 25% of one’s time should be devoted to Q1 tasks.)
Balancing Importance Determining value is a key objective of prioritization. Findings from mul- tiple time management studies indi- cate that what one considers to be of value is where one’s time is spent. But since there is no one-size-fits-all formula for value, it is open to per- sonal subjectivity. Focusing on a project simply be- cause of its urgency designation can be not only a distraction, but also a roadblock to achieving success on a bona fide, critical task or project that adds clear genuine value. Q2 is the quality quadrant. It’s where plans are created, debated, modified, and refined. Covey said, “Q2 is not a tool; it’s a way of think- ing.” Tasks and projects found in Q2 frequently require collaboration with others, thus the need for assignments, accountability, coordination, and pro- gress measurements. For instance, for a distributor sales rep, this may include input from manufacturers’ design engineering departments or the coordination with the warehouse for scheduling of time-released ship- ments over several months. Priorities channeled in Q2 can be used to prepare plans for customer or supplier relationship building, defen- sive strategies against competitive tac- tics, or strategic maneuvers to intro- duce a new technology or enter a new market. Timing is an important factor here as well, but it’s less pressing and somewhat more fluid. In the quality quadrant, the focus shifts from urgency to “importance thinking.” It’s here where attention is given to “doing the right things.” Since the quality quadrant often involves a team, it’s essential that clarification is given to terminologies, accountabili- ties, and outcome measurements. (In The Oz Principle, authors Conners, Smith, and Hickman point out that “when progress is measured, progress improves, and when it’s reported, im- provement accelerates.”) The principal decision maker on a Q2 team, who may well be the account sales rep, must ensure that communi- cations are open and that assigned tasks and timing are known, under- stood, and agreed upon. Progress must be frequently monitored to en- sure that all team members are mov- ing in the same direction and that the priorities in question are timely and not in conflict with other teams’ or company priorities. (Covey suggests that 65% to 85% of one’s time should be working on Q2 priorities.) According to the authors of The Oz Principle, “People can easily confuse work with results.” It seems obvious that one should be dedicated to what’s most important. But we aren’t always. Instead, we occasionally find our- selves working on what’s easy but ineffectual—on tasks that satisfy our egos so that we can scratch off bullet points on our saturated to-do list rather than measure our efforts against a more worthwhile but prob- lematical threat or opportunity. Q3 and Q4 are reserved for “fill-in” activities (e.g., returning phone calls, sorting mail, filing papers, etc.). Even if classified as urgent (Q3), these items should not interfere with Q1 or Q2 priorities. The Customer’s Priority It should be the goal of every sales rep to be known for the quality of his or her service, not the quantity of sales calls made. Recognizing and understanding the priorities of each customer and, when possible, assist- ing in successfully addressing them adds powerful value to the relation- ship. This type of pragmatic sales rep- resentation creates a template for trustworthiness, reliability, knowl- edge, and leadership that can elevate him or her to a position of compe- tence and security—and who may be seen, perhaps, as a priority source for consultation by the client. Attaining this status with a cus- tomer, however, is not accomplished in a month, or even a year. The pro- cess for crafting such a status is transformative but, once established, can be difficult to match by competi- tion. It is reached and maintained through planning, discipline, focus, and sacrifice. Doing so should be every sales rep’s goal. And it can be, if earning such a reputation is the priority. ; Thomas is an independent freelance writer and marketing consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Determining the value
of a task is key to
determining its priority.