Squeeky Wheel : Shelach and Our Priorities

The expression goes that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Why don’t we spend our energy differently? Why not invest our energy in good things that are important, as compared to always doing triage? Are we spending our resources, time, and emotional energy well?

I was thinking about these questions when reading Shelach, this week’s Torah portion. There we learn about spies who gave reports on the land. We spend so much energy dealing with the 10 spies who gave a bad report we never spend enough time on Kalev and Joshua who gave a good report.  Ignoring the good spies just seems to be human nature.

This reminds me of Stephen Covey ‘s Four Quadrants. His system asks us to use of four quadrants to determine the tasks you “need” to do and deciding what should be made a priority. For those who are not familiar with it, here’s a picture and a brief overview.

  • In Quadrant 1 (top left) we have important, urgent items – items that need to be dealt with immediately.
  • In Quadrant 2 (top right) we have important, but not urgent items – items that are important but do not require your immediate attention, and need to be planned for.  This quadrant is highlighted because this is the quadrant that we should focus on for long-term achievement of goals
  • In Quadrant 3 (bottom left) we have urgent, but unimportant items –  items which should be minimized or eliminated. These activities suck a lot of out time.
  • In Quadrant 4 (bottom right) we have unimportant and also not urgent items – items that don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and also should be minimized or eliminated.

In Covey’s words we should create habits that put “first things first to achieve effectiveness. Too often decisions are guided by the “clock” of scheduling and not by the “compass” of purpose and values. In Covey’s words, if people want “to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy” they need to move beyond “urgency” . We cannot just be greasing Quadrant 1 or listening to the bad spies. We need to strive to spend more of our time in the Quadrant 2 and invest in the good spies.



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