A number of people asked me the question, what constitutes each of the quadrants of “Want to do”, “Have to do”, and “Think you have to do”?

Of course, the answer will be very personal, since each of us has different ambitions, personality, belief systems, values, etc. In general though, the things we want to do will be those we enjoy, that bring us closer to our personal goals, and that help us to “self-actualize”, i.e. fulfill our true potential as human beings. In my case, for example, I like to spend time with friends and family, read, ride my bikes, photograph, and travel.

The things we have to do will generally be those of a more urgent and imminent nature, for example, taking care of aging parents, helping your kids through rough patches, meeting externally imposed work deadlines, etc.

In fact, most people have little difficulty knowing what’s in these first two components. The real challenge is usually the vast mid-section of “Things you think you have to do”. Herein lie all the years of social conditioning and “brainwashing” as to what constitutes success: An important job, material wealth, status, obligation, social convention, etc. Often, we even think we like to do these things, because they make us feel important and validated by ourselves and others.

For example, it used to be very important to me to have a sports car, and I’ve had more than a half-dozen assorted Alfa Romeos, Triumphs, and BMW.  And while I did enjoy driving them, I eventually realized that they consumed vast amounts of my time and emotional energy in caring for them with various guys named Luigi, Fritz, and Mario. I’ve easily spent about 300 days of my life going back-and-forth and sitting in garages waiting for my sports cars to be fixed, or chasing down parts, or simply enraged that some idiot in a parking lot carelessly dinged my door (which, of course absolutely needed to be repainted now). But that was me…and it may not be you. For you, sports cars may be a genuine pleasure that could easily fall into the “Like to do” category. The trick of course, is knowing the difference.

A very useful tool for making the distinction between the three quadrants is to change your “currency” from money, to time. Currency is something we exchange with others for value. Money is the traditional currency, although the exchange of goods and services in barter also qualifies as currency. Hence expressions like “He’s not worth his salt” from the time when salt was so scarce that it was used as currency. But I digress.

Shifting the way you measure value from money to time can be a powerful way of validating whether or not an activty is worth doing. If you value time more than money, you can begin to weigh the benefit of any “B” activity (Think you have to do) more effectively. At our home it is now quite routine for someone to propose something and then to hear, “No thanks, that’s a definite B activity…there’s far better things I’d like to do with my time”.