Posted on

Merrill Covey Matrix

Object of Play
Many of us are overwhelmed by our to-do lists, and work hard each day to accomplish just a few of our countless tasks. However, we tend to focus on urgent items while disregarding the importance of planning for tasks that are necessary to reach our overall goal. This negligence will lead to even more stress in the long run, as everything will eventually become urgent if not prepared for. Fortunately, Merrill Covey Matrix, based on  Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill’s description in their book First Things First, allows you to evaluate the urgency and importance of your tasks. The goal of this activity is to prioritize your to-do list in order to plan ahead and work efficiently. Play Merrill Covey Matrix with your team at work, key partners, or customers to clarify the purpose and value of your tasks and to discover which items should be minimized or eliminated.

Number of Players:
5 – 8

Duration of Play
1 hour

How to Play

1. Before your meeting, draw a 2×2 matrix on a large white board or poster. Label the axes as followed:

  • 2 left cells – Urgent
  • 2 right cells – Not urgent
  • 2 top cells – Important
  • 2 bottom cells– Not important

2. Distribute pens and plenty of sticky notes to your players; participants will use these to write tasks.

3. Allow 5 – 10 minutes for players to write to-do items on the post-its: one per note.

4. Have players present their tasks to the group. As a team, collaborate to identify where each to-do item should be placed on the matrix.

5. Once all of the notes are posted, rearrange the tasks in each cell in order of importance. Start thinking about how you can use the organization to make your to-do list more efficient. Keep in mind the value of each cell:

  • Cell 1: Urgent, important – these tasks should be at the top of your to-do list
  • Cell 2: Not urgent, important – these items are likely to be neglected, but are necessary for long-term success. Set aside time each week to focus on these in order to be more productive. We suggest making this cell a different color so you will remember its significance.
  • Cell 3: Urgent, not important – these tasks suck your time and are often the result of poor-planning. They should be minimized or eliminated.
  • Cell 4: Not urgent, not important – these items are trivial time-wasters that should be eliminated

6. Collaborate to clarify the value of the items and to identify which team members will be responsible for each task. Write down the new order of your to-do list, but make sure take a picture of the chart or leave it up so you can refer back to it.

Play Online

Now you can play Merrill Covey Matrix instantly online! Clicking on the picture to the right will start an “instant play” game at innovationgames.com. Here, this image will be used as the “game board.” This chart is organized the same way as the in-person version, and the second cell is highlighted yellow to remind you of its importance. However, instead of post-it notes, there will be two different icons that players can drag onto the chart and describe to represent the tasks:

  • Green squares – priority tasks that require attention
  • Red square – tasks to minimize/eliminate

All moves can be seen in real time by each participant, so everyone can edit the positions and descriptions of the icons. Also, the integrated chat facility allows you and your players to collaborate to form the most efficient to-do list.

Strategy
Delegation is an integral part of time management. Rather than assuming everyone will work together on each item, you must assign tasks in order to prevent social loafing. This way, people will feel more responsible for certain items and will accomplish them more efficiently.

Considering how easy it is to neglect the items in the second cell, it is advised to highlight or surround the region with a different color to portray its significance, as seen in the images above. At the beginning of each week, set aside time to work on these necessary tasks.

Avoid creating a long, intimidating to-do lists by breaking it down into smaller lists. For example, consider creating a task sheet for each person or a group list for each day or week.

Key Points
While we are all busy working through our to-do lists, we may not be doing so as efficiently as we think. Play Merrill Covey Matrix to identify the purpose and value of your tasks and to minimize or eliminate time-wasters. Plan ahead to avoid unproductive busy work and to accomplish your goal in a productive manner.