Stephen Covey

Drawing on the work of Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this will guide you to prioritise your time as a nurse.

So, you are on the ward and you are feeling flustered and lost and your ‘TO DO’ list has gone out the window.

Maybe it was the MET call you just had, and then an admission who needs IVAB STAT and a patient needs escort to CT downstairs and now you are all over the place.

Or maybe good ol’ Sally and Henry, two nurses on the ward, need your help and you want to try please everyone. You end up getting diverted by everyone else’s priorities.

Well, behold a potential solution my friends…sort of.

You need to set your priorities, or you’ll end up wanting some of that IV medication you are giving your patients with the broken hip.

According to Covey, we spend MOST OF OUR TIME in Quadrant 4 and almost NO TIME in Quadrant 2.

The objective of using the time management matrix

To question whether a certain activity brings you closer to your goals or not. If this is the case, these responsibilities need to be prioritised over those tasks that might demand your time but do not contribute to your goals.

Source: Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Quadrant 1

Important, urgent items. These items need to be dealt with immediately. Important deadlines, that could have been foreseen and planned for or are unexpected and emergencies.

Quadrant 2

Important, but not urgent items. These items are important but do not require your immediate attention, need to be planned for. Covey emphasizes this is the quadrant that we should focus on for long term achievement of goals

Quadrant 3

Urgent, but unimportant items. These items should be minimized or eliminated. They may appear to have a high urgency, but are not at all important in comparison to quadrant 1 and 2.

Quadrant 4

Unimportant and also not urgent items. These items don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and also should be minimized or eliminated.


So, begin to think about this matrix when you are a bit lost and need to prioritise what to do. But also, your best friend first and foremost is DRSABCD. Plan to look after your sickest patient first to reduce risk of deterioration.

And let be honest, if you are not currently doing CPR, then it could always be worse right? So, breath and take a step back, think and now plan and do.

Nursing is 24 hours care, if you really can’t do it, then hand it over and that is that!

Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People were

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put important things first (The Quadrants)
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to be understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize (teamwork is a strength)
  7. Sharpen the saw (Balance and renew your resources, energy and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle)