Choice 1: Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent®

Are you using your brain effectively?

In a knowledge-worker world where we are paid to think, create, and innovate, our primary tool for creating value is our brain. There are two basic parts of the brain: the Reactive Brain and the Thinking Brain.

The Reactive Brain

This part of our brain is where our habits and routines lie.  It’s valuable, because it allows us to live our lives without constantly having to make decisions repeatedly about the same things.  Without the Reactive brain, we would have to use our car’s GPS every time we went to the same grocery store, look up our password every time we sign onto email or rebuild our morning routine each day when we wake up.

The Thinking Brain

This part of our brain is where we make conscious choices.  We get paid for using this part of our brain – solving problems, innovating, and making decisions about where to invest our time.  We add value when we’re intentional about our choices (the Thinking brain) instead of simply doing what we’ve always done (the Reactive brain).  The Reactive brain is where we move the choices we’ve made that work well, so we can make them automatic in the future.

Neuroscience tells us that, with practice, we can actually rewire our brains to be more thoughtful and discerning about our choices. It is in those discerning choices that we determine the quality, joy, and happiness of our lives.

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We make choices based on two factors:

  • Importance (how valuable is the result of doing it)
  • Urgency (how soon does it need to be done)

The Reactive brain chooses urgency over importance because it wants to quiet the pressing, noisy issue.  The Thinking brain chooses importance because it looks for high-payoff outcomes.

FranklinCovey’s Time Matrix

The Time Matrix is a tool for triaging every activity through the Thinking brain, with a bias towards things that are important – but not urgent (The Q2 quadrant of extraordinary productivity).  The more time we can spend in Q2, the less we’ll be dealing with other people’s urgencies.

The key to getting into Q2 is to pause your Reactive Brain log enough to clarify what is coming at you, then decide whether it is worth your time and energy (the Pause-Clarify-Decide process). It’s that moment of choice when we consciously determine how important something is before we decide whether or not to do it.

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Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.

— Dr. Stephen R. Covey

The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity

Discern the important from the urgent and not important and increase your ROM (Return on the Moment) in the midst of fierce distractions.


Redefine and prioritize your roles in terms of extraordinary results to achieve high-priority goals.


Use tips and tools to schedule your priorities (instead of prioritizing your schedule) and execute with excellence on your most important options.


Make your technology work for you, not against you, and turn it into a productivity engine.


Increase your energy to think clearly, make good decisions, and feel more accomplished at the end of every day.

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