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Act On The Important— Don’t React To The Urgent Many of us end up focusing on what we consider “low hanging fruit,” which isn’t necessarily bad, but can also keep us from getting to the tough projects that really matter. Sometimes we don’t act on the important things because of a fear of failure. Other times the “squeaky wheel” distracts us. Often, the things that matter the least make the most noise. We need to learn to discern the difference between the things we ought to be doing and not doing. The Franklin Covey time matrix (see chart on page 38) can help evaluate the value of our activities. Quadrant One This high-functioning quadrant is where both urgent and important tasks are handled. Quadrant one tasks require our immediate, focused attention. We receive value roughly equal to the effort put into this area. This quadrant is not a bad place to be—we often do some of our best work here—but we can’t sustain this level of focused attention long-term without becoming very worn down. Quadrant Two This quadrant is for items that are important, but not urgent. The benefit gained from these activities is much greater than the effort put into them. Relaxation and time with family fit into this category—these are the things that rejuvenate us. It’s often hard to find the time to spend in this quadrant but it’s important to make time for these parts of our life that truly matter.


efore joining Franklin Covey, James Cathcart was a stand-up comedian, a high school teacher and a manager of security for Utah Transit Authority. For the last 18 years, he has been working with companies small and large to grow their businesses and enhance the lives of their employees. He has become Franklin Covey’s most sought-after speaker and we were thrilled to have him in Laguna Niguel for our 2012 Symposium. Mr. Cathcart has a talent for commanding an audience. He began by asking what came to mind when thinking of productivity. He went on to ask if it has become easier or more difficult to be productive in the last 10 years. Some responded yes while others said no. Asking both groups why yielded the same answer—technology. Why do so many of us struggle with productivity? We live in a world with a pretty clear paradox—it’s both easier and harder than ever to achieve extraordinary productivity. Over the last three years, Franklin Covey has been developing a program to increase efficiency that takes into account what our brain is actually capable of achieving. There are some things that our brains are simply not able to do. For example, Mr. Cathcart asked everyone in the audience to pick up their right leg and begin making clockwise circles. Then, at the same time, they were asked to pick up their right hands and circle them counter-clockwise. Laughter spread through the audience as most all the feet involuntarily began circling counter-clockwise. There are a very small percentage of people who can do this, but our brains are not generally wired to have two limbs on the same side of our body moving in opposite directions. Franklin Covey has built this program—The Five Choices of Extraordinary Productivity—around how the human brain is hard-wired to function. We live in a day and age with many unique challenges. However, we all have the potential to do extraordinary things. Many of us spend too much time trying to fit into someone else’s standard of who we should be rather than focusing on the unique talents and capabilities that make us each extraordinary.

Mr. Cathcart presented the following five choices that will help us all achieve extraordinary productivity.


The Five Choices of Extraordinary Productivity

Quadrant Three These are tasks that are urgent but not important. They are demanding of our time without creating any value. Things like emails, phone calls and paperwork deadlines fall into this category.

Quadrant Four The fourth quadrant is the category of tasks that are simply not important. Many of us think this is where relaxation belongs, but it is not. This is where we waste our time getting sucked into hours of television that we aren’t even enjoying when we really should be sleeping—it is where we receive no benefit from our activities.

Schedule The Big Rocks— Don’t Sort Gravel

Evaluating our daily or weekly activities based on the amount of time we spend in each quadrant is a great way to be sure we are choosing to act on the important things rather than reacting to the urgent ones.

When Steven Covey, co-founder of Franklin Covey, was a college professor he would begin class by placing a wide mouth mason jar on his desk. He would then proceed to fill it with large river rocks. Next, he would take out a bucket of gravel and pour that in over the rocks, shake it a bit and continue to pour until the gravel filled the space between all the rocks. He would then address the class—asking if the jar was full. Knowing he was getting at something, the class would often answer that it wasn’t. He would then add sand, followed by water—completely filling all of the space in the jar. He would go on to bring out another jar and demonstrate what happens if you attempt the same exercise with the same amount of each material in reverse order—adding the water first, followed by the sand and gravel. He would end up with a pile of large rocks with space in the jar for only one or two. If we don’t account for the big important rocks in our life before fitting in the other little things we will not have space for them. Our rocks are our Quadrant Two activities. We need to make time for these items.

Go For Extraordinary— Don’t Settle For Ordinary

Rule Your Technology— Don’t Let It Rule You

To illustrate how we can choose not to settle for ordinary, Mr. Cathcart shared a story he’d heard on the radio. The commentator had been in his backyard with his six-year-old son and a friend of his, who is a Navy Seal. They were running around, hiding behind trees and having a great time shooting one another with soft Nerf® darts. Not surprisingly, the Navy Seal was winning their little game. The Seal eventually hit the little boy in the face with one of the darts. It was soft and didn’t actually hurt him, but it did startle him and he started to cry. The radio commentator walked over to his son to comfort him (as any father would) and told him he would be okay. The Navy Seal told the boy to “cowboy up” because he was re-loading and going to shoot him in the face again. The kid smiled, re-loaded and took off running. The radio commentator was expecting his son to act like a kid. The Seal expected more. When we hold others to higher standards we are much more likely to see extraordinary behavior.

Mr. Cathcart shared a funny story of a recent outing to a movie theater. In the middle of the movie someone’s phone rang. This isn’t a big deal—it happens to the best of us. However, rather than simply turning the phone off or to silent, the man answered the call. He bent all the way over in his seat—as if a bubble of silence might surround him—but the whole theater could hear his conversation and it was clearly not an urgent issue. This is an example of a man whose technology is ruling him. We have so much technology in our lives— practice management and patient education software, computers, cell phones, tablets and more. Sometimes these conveniences can start to feel like they are ruling our lives. We shouldn’t force ourselves into using something that we hate. Our technology should be a seamless part of our lives and practice. If it’s not, we can either get some training or change the technology we’re using. We need our technology to “bow” to us, not the other way around.

Quadrant One Urgent and Important

Quadrant Two Not Urgent But Important

Quadrant Three Urgent But Not Important

Quadrant Four Not Important

Fuel Your Fire— Don’t Burn Out To demonstrate this choice, Mr. Cathcart shared a story of a periodontist who used to be a lawyer. His father and grandfather had both been lawyers and it was expected that he would be one as well, but he hated the profession. What he really wanted to be was a dentist. At age 33 he decided to go to dental school and eventually started his own practice. Mr. Cathcart met this man when he was in his mid-60s. At that point he had spent the previous 20 years doing something he absolutely loved and had no intention of ever retiring from dentistry. He chose a profession that he connected to so it didn’t drain him and he wasn’t burnt out. The following five primary drivers help maintain the necessary energy to fuel our fire.

Conclusion When we think about productivity many of us jump to the concept of time management. Good time managers don’t get more time than anyone else, they just make good choices on how to spend their time. We need to manage the choices of what we do with the fixed amount of time we have. As always, Mr. Cathcart’s presentation kept us engaged and entertained while imparting valuable information that can have a real impact on our lives. We look forward to more insights from James Cathcart and Franklin Covey in the future.

Move Movement is more than exercise. Our bodies were meant to move around regularly. Simply getting up and walking around for a minute or two once in awhile can have an enormous effect on brain function. Eat We all know that eating well makes us feel and function better—we just need to be disciplined to make good decisions about our food. Sleep We all need eight to nine hours of sleep each night. Americans, on average, get only five to six. The rapid eye movement stage of sleep is when our brain imprints memories and has been shown to put off Alzheimer’s disease (especially early onset). The best thing we can do for our memory is sleep. Relax Relaxation is different than sleep—it’s doing the things we like to do and has a powerful impact on our ability to be productive. Connect We also need to connect—personal relationships are what drives us to maintain our strongest loyalties.


The Five Choices of Extraordinary People Keynote Speaker James Cathcart

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