The 4 Square Tool

Recently I have been experimenting with my own little version of a matrix tool that I have come to call the 4 square tool . The tool itself is just a simple matrix of four boxes. One axis represents the complexity of tasks, while the other represents the urgency of tasks. I have been using the simple little tool to help drudge through the many tasks on my plate and decide what to do with each. Here is the tool.

Here are few pointers from my experience to date:

Low Complexity, Low Urgency: These are the back burner tasks for a rainy day. These don’t need to get done right now, and honestly might not need to get done for a while. We use a 37 Signals product called Backpack to organize ideas like this. I just go toss them on the ideas list and move on. This allows anyone on my team to go work on them should they ever have some down time. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in these tasks.

Low Complexity, High Urgency: If you are in a place to delegate tasks, these are the tasks you delegate faster than you can say the word “delegate”. These are tasks that are not difficult and need to be completed with some sort of urgency. Examples might be setting up a meeting, mailing an item, paying a bill, or something of this nature. These tasks are right at the heart of delegation. Get ‘um gone. If you are someone that is not in place to delegate, knock this stuff of your list right away. These are great tasks to do in the first hour of your day. Just get these done and move on.

High Complexity, Low Urgency: These are going to need some of your time, most likely within the week. Put these on your calendar and block out some time to work on them. I often work on plans for these tasks in my two hours of focus time each week. These still may be delegation tasks, but they aren’t just things you toss off the plate. These are complex tasks that are going to take some time and management. These might be longer term projects that need to get started with a project overview meeting, or personal projects that will take some time to organize. Though these aren’t urgent, they typically have deadlines attached because of there complexity. If they don’t, they’ll need one. Block off time to address these.

High Complexity, High Urgency: These are the tasks that need your attention immediately. These are going to fill up your spare time. If you have more than a few of these, there is a serious problem brewing!! These get my full attention and time immediately.

If you try it, let me know what you think.


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