Working in the Second Quadrant
In 1989 Stephen Covey wrote the little book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
I have no doubt that Mr. Covey was a highly effective person. After all, his little book sold more than 25 million copies. His work influenced millions of people and I was one of them. Nonetheless, I found the title to be a bit intimidating. Highly effective? Is that me? I'm not always sure about that, but I did understand and absorb his message. Implementation has been spotty, as I'm sure it has been for most highly human people.
In the book, Stephen Covey describes the four quadrants that we live in as we complete daily activities.
In my current decade, the meaning of each of these quadrants has changed from when I was a corporate denizen. Here's how they look to me now:
- Quadrant 4: Non-Urgent and Non-Important. Saturday night I decided I'd watch episode 1 and 2 of the 1971 TV show, Columbo! It was crazy fun. But it was certainly not urgent nor important.
- Quadrant 3: Urgent and Non-Important. Today, the most striking of these is responding to each notification beep of the phone! The beep screams urgent. The time diving into the distraction is nearly always unimportant.
- Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important. This is still where many find themselves much of the time ... getting stuff done. Things have deadlines. In this decade, the urgency may be self-defined, as in "if nothing feels urgent, maybe nothing gets done!"
- Quadrant 2: Non-Urgent and Important. This is where I place the walk with the dogs at sunrise. Taking the time to appreciate others. And completing a large, important task that has been easy to ignore. That's where I found myself the past few days. Covey put self-development tasks in this quadrant. He metaphorically called these tasks "sharpening the saw". For a carpenter sharpening the saw may be non-urgent, but if ignored, it can become urgent.
My quadrant 2 task: An outfeed table for the tablesaw
On Saturday I stopped the deadline work and decided to take time out to build an outfeed table for the tablesaw. Instantly, it was easy for me to recognize that I'd moved into quadrant 2. Easy, because of Stephen Covey's allusion to sharpening the saw. A saw was actually involved. Plus it was easy, because clearly I'd been procrastinating for months. It wasn't urgent. But for safety and efficiency, it really was important.
This is what got built, a beautiful new outfeed table:
I bought the beautiful new saw in March, but the outfeed table on the old saw was not a good match, so I took note of the need and put "build outfeed table" on my to-do list (apparently as non-urgent)! Thinking about the delay, I realize now that my own conceptual complications had forced this project into a state of continual procrastination. Way back in 2014, I designed an outfeed table for the old saw:
That was a work of art! But it never got built, because it was complicated (and non-urgent). The causes of the complications were that it was over-specified. It served the additional requirements of router table, storage, and accommodations for dust collection. So it was abandoned in favor of a simple outfeed table. But the elegant design was internalized again when I bought the fancy tablesaw in March! And because of its complicated nature, again it didn't get built in the past 9 months!
This weekend, I finally broke away from the elegant concept, and started focusing on the needs of safety and efficiency. As I built the thing, which fully meets the need and looks quite nice, I came to appreciate the rationale for keeping it simple.
- I've operated this shop for 13 years now without a router table. Maybe that's not important.
- More storage would be useful, but really wouldn't it work out fine (and simply) to add some storage units to this new table as the needs become clear? The design-build concept works fine for the highway builders, and honestly, it works fine for me, too.
- Something just bothers me about the orientation of that router table as designed. Years of experience indicate that the outfeed table should be slightly lower than surface of the saw. If not, work is going to catch on the outfeed table randomly, no matter how carefully we measure and attach the two. So I attached this new outfeed 2 mm lower than the saw surface, and that's just right for the principal purpose. But, to use the router table as it appears in my elegant design (pretty much what you see in multiple pretty magazine pictures), the two tables should be flush. Well there you go. It was a flawed design anyway, wasn't it?
I give myself a pat on the back! I got a biggie done in Quadrant 2! Now in corporate-speak, do I need to create an entry in "lessons learned"?