I breathed a heavy sigh as I shut my driver’s side door and lifted my purse, work bag, and laptop to my shoulder. The 6:00 pm Texas heat was stifling, even on the short walk from my car to our front door. I slouched inside the house, sighed again as I shut the door behind me, and dropped my bags in the entryway. My stomach growled as I collapsed on the couch. I thought, “Maybe I could squeeze in a quick nap? That might give me the energy to clean up the sink full of dishes and walk the dogs.” I took a nap; but it didn’t give me the boost I was looking for.  I went to bed early that night, but could still barely drag myself out of bed the next morning.

I think back on this season of my life, and thankfully, it seems like ancient history. Sadly, that night was like many moments during my early adulthood that I used sleep, television, and unhealthy eating habits to cope with a life that increasingly felt unmanageable.

At that at that time, I was living squarely in Quadrant 4 of Charles Hummel’s “Tyranny of the Urgent,” surrendering to activities of no importance, and no urgency.


In Hummel’s theory of effective time management, he encourages us to place highest priority on the activities of Quadrant 2. I was ignoring this wisdom, and paying the price.

All of us find ourselves in Quadrant 4 from time to time, and we should! Having well-timed and deserved recreation can be a healthy part of enjoying life. But many of us would benefit from evaluating, periodically, whether our escapes are enriching or sabotaging us. If Quadrant 4 is starting to dominate our time, these questions could help us identify the reason:

  • What am I needing to feel relief/escape from?
  • Do I feel rejuvenated by the activity and energized to return to productive work?
  • What quadrant 4 activities help me feel more fulfilled and more empowered?

When we determine that our Quadrant 4 activity provides no value, it’s on us to make a change immediately. It is possible to create a different existence for ourselves. It is possible to, in the words of Dale Carnegie, “cultivate a mental attitude that will bring [us] peace and happiness”.

Download Dale Carnegie’s latest white paper on “Recognizing Leadership Blind Spots.”

Posted by MaryAnn Means-Dufrene

As Market President for Dale Carnegie North Texas, MaryAnn partners with organizations and individuals to build leadership capacity necessary for breakthrough performance. Through strategic partnerships, she creates customized skill development plans to increase employee engagement, boost individual and team productivity, and develop the kind of leaders people actually want to follow. MaryAnn has tremendous experience in collaborating with organizations in Tarrant County, previously serving as Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Greater Fort Worth and as Deputy Chief of Staff to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in psychology and earned her Master of Public Administration and Master of Strategic Human Resource Management degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is board chair for Presbyterian Night Shelter, board vice president for Girls Inc of Tarrant County, and serves on the board of directors of Women's Policy Forum and the Central Area Council for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. MaryAnn lives with her husband Matt, son Hogan, and two dogs Deuce and Lovey in Fort Worth, Texas.

One Comment

  1. I can definitely relate to your thoughts here MaryAnn…and it may be time to self-analyze a bit on when and why I spend time in Quadrant 4! Thanks for sharing!



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