Stephen Covey Applied to Research and Recruiting Prioritization

Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People offers a ton of great information for being successful at whatever endeavor you choose to pursue in your life. One of the success steps outlined in the book is putting first things first. Covey creates what is called a Time Management Matrix, shown here:

The goal with analyzing your matrix is to focus attention on the important, urgent tasks and to eliminate the not important, not urgent tasks. Some examples of items that might fit into each category:


Career-oriented activities or money-oriented activities, such as performing well at work, starting a business, or promoting your company.


Activities related to self-improvement and/or lifestyle; these activities are fulfilling but usually do not have a finite time-frame: getting a higher education, maintaining your health, spending time with your family (spouse, children, relatives).


These activities will usually pop up in your life as apparent spur-of-the-moment emergencies or recurring mundane tasks, such as doing the laundry, cleaning your house, mowing the lawn, etc.


Time-wasting and/or entertainment activities, such as watching TV, excess sleep (beyond your minimum requirement), video games, surfing the Internet.

As a whole, most people will spend more time on the Not Important items than on the Important ones. Why is this? Perhaps it is because the not-important activities tend to either be more entertaining or produce more immediate gratification. In a world where microwave mentality is the way to go, instant gratification is what most people want. Though they recognize the importance of working persistently toward a goal, the appeal of instant gratification creates that temporary solution. Working on your health – going to the gym and maintaining a balanced diet – takes time and cannot be completed overnight. Cleaning your house or mowing your lawn, however, takes a matter of hours and can result in the satisfaction of a job well done.

This matrix is excellent be-cause it can be applied in so many different situations. For example, the time-management matrix may be used to help prioritize a researcher’s search requests. It can also be used to assist in categorizing the client’s needs for a recruiting practice.

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Example: As an Internet researcher, you can use this matrix to place different levels of priority on the search requests received from the recruiters whom you support. The same exact model can be used to assess client needs from a recruiting standpoint. Here is a possible layout:

A researcher’s, as well as a recruiter’s, priority should be placed on the client who puts money down on a search. The least priority should be given to a search assignment where there is no money up front, the fee is low, and/or the search has been farmed out to numerous other recruiting agencies or has been combed through by internal recruiters before being passed along to you. This kind of search could be referred to as “sloppy seconds.” Knowing of course that each recruiting operation is different, these are just some simple examples of ways that both researchers and recruiters can prioritize their search assignments.

Many recruiters – and re-searchers as well – may argue that “each search has a sense of urgency” and that “attention should be given to each search assignment.” If you truly adhered to that kind of thought process, each time you received a new search assignment you would drop whatever you were working on at the moment to start the new search. In reality, you would be very busy but not productive at all, as most of your projects would be begun but never finished. This is a big problem that many researchers and recruiters alike have. We appear very busy all the time, but we are usually not being as productive as we could be. Excellent re-searchers and recruiters learn to place different tasks in priority quadrants like these and to focus on the important, urgent activities first and foremost, while trying to eliminate the not important, not urgent ones as quickly as possible.

What can we learn from Covey’s matrix? Very simply: Proper prioritization propagates productivity.

Being able to place your searches in appropriate prioritization will enable you to be more productive with your work time. Time is a commodity that cannot be bought back; it is best to plan for proper use of it. Doing this will increase the efficiency of your team and your company, which will in turn put more money in your pocket.

Please take a look at Stephen Covey’s collection of books, speaking engagements, and other training tools at

Amybeth Hale is Manager of Internet Research for SearchPath International’s Centralized Re-search Department. Using her research skills, Amybeth networks throughout various industries to uncover talented individuals and marketing opportunities for franchise offices. Her duties include but are not limited to offering research support, assisting in research support to franchises, assisting in database and sourcing training, and finding and training new research talent to assist with the growth of the company. Amybeth also maintains a research blog, She has been a guest author for other well-known Internet recruiting re-source blogs.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, and, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.