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9. Urgent vs. Not-urgent

In every relationship we devote our time to a number of issues, activities and tasks. One way to manage them effectively is by classifying them by degrees of urgency and importance. This method was developed by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and popularized in Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This blog will cover how we can apply this method specifically to relationshipping.


Covey describes how many fall into the trap of spending too much time on urgent but not important tasks, which makes them feel productive but in reality, a more productive use of the time would be to do more important and not-urgent tasks


Marital therapists often see this pattern effect relationships. Relationshipping is always important but seldom urgent. Life, on the other hand--especially the business aspects creates a lot of urgent distractions--some important, some not.


It may feel like you're engaged in your relationship because you take on every urgent task as it appears, but even if both partners are both sharing the weight of the business side equally, something will still be missing if they make no time for relationshipping.


(Click here for more about the Two Parts of the Relationship.)



The Eisenhower Decision Matrix create a quadrant of urgent, not-urgent, not important but urgent, not important, not urgent.


Quadrant 1


Quadrant 1 is important and urgent. These are the moments that need immediate attention for obvious reasons and are truly the things that you need to put everything else aside to handle and the moment and as quickly as possible.

  • Crises

  • Problems

  • Opportunity

Quadrant 2


Covey suggests that we should spend most of our time in quadrant 2 which are the activities

that are the most fulfilling and strengthening for the future.


When it comes to relationshipping these tasks and activities are the work that don't necessarily feel like work and yet they still bring about all the rewards and emotional fruits that you can hope for in your relationship. While it's never urgent to do these things it is still very important to make time to do them and to do them regularly.


For more on why, read Emotional Fruits


These activities may include the following


  • Going on dates

  • Eating together

  • Taking a walk

  • Board games


Quadrant 3


The third quadrant is not important, but urgent.


According to Covey many people spend most of their time in this quadrant because tackling these activities makes them feel important to feel accomplished but they actually don't help you towards your long-term goals.


Interruptions have the same effect on relationships, and the best way to avoid them is to remove yourself from potential distractions. create windows of time for being with your spouse and you leave the phone at home or in the car.


  • Texts

  • Social media notifications

  • Phone calls


Quadrant 4


The fourth quadrant is for “not important and not urgent.” These activities do nothing to serve your relationship but might serve other aspects of your life. Use them sparingly, do not prioritize these activities over making time to spend with your spouse!


  • Scrolling through social media aimlessly

  • watching TV alone

  • Loafing around


Diagnose the Real Problems… And the Real Rewards


Some of the most common things to fight over in relationships are trivial, for example if your spouse keeps leaving the cap off the toothpaste. It can feel urgent in the moment,but it's not.

This is certainly not and urgent problem to fix but it could definitely be important. But you wouldn't be furious with someone for accidentally leaving the toothpaste cap off once or twice. It gets under your skin because of a deeper issue.


Similarly, it's not the walk in the park that's going to change your relationship for the better but the conversations you have the discoveries you make and the bond that you form over time from doing these Quadrant 2 tasks.


What may seem like a not-important activity to you may be very important to your spouse based on their love language. It's not really about the activity, but what the activity provides to your spouse and the opportunities of the activity creates for intimacy. You don't fall in love with someone because you took them bowling, but maybe going and the fun time together will make you feel close and connected and ignite a spark between you. It could have been tennis, it could have been mini golf; it happened to be bowling.


Never underestimate the power that these activities can have to change your marriage for the better by inspiring discovery of intimacy, just as much as seemingly trivial habits can reveal deeper lying issues.


Happy relationshipping!

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