We all have one of those periods when things get crazy. There seems to be so much to do. You are very busy all day but at the end of the day, you can’t point to anything significant that you’ve done.
You end up getting frustrated and depressed. You are not alone my friend. Thankfully, I just may have a possible solution for you: The Eisenhower Matrix, which my friend, Victor, introduced to me some time ago.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a time management method which helps you to prioritise tasks based on their urgency or importance. This enables you to sort out less urgent and important tasks that you should either delegate to others or not do at all.
The Eisenhower decision matrix came about from a quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower the 34th President of the US who was apparently very productive. He said
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Basically, the principle is very simple. Some tasks are urgent. Some tasks are important. Some tasks are neither urgent nor important.
When you recognise what is important, what is urgent and what is neither, you’ll be able to organise your tasks better and make more productive use of your time.
First, let’s define what “urgent tasks” and “important tasks” are and then see how to practically apply the principle.
Urgent tasksare tasks thatrequire immediate attention and must be done “Now!“. Urgent tasks put us in a reactive mode where we are focused on finishing just one thing hurriedly as soon as possible. Like finishing up an assignment due in 20 minutes.
We often find ourselves concentrating on urgent tasks because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
Important tasks are tasks that contribute to our mission, values, and goals. Important tasks may sometimes be urgent but usually, they are not. Important activities put us in a responsive mode where we are calm and think more rationally about what we are doing.
How TheEisenhower Matrix Works
The matrix consists of four quadrants which are labelled as
- Quadrant 1 -Important and Urgent Tasks
- Quadrant 2 – Important but not Urgent Tasks
- Quadrant 3 – Not important but Urgent Tasks
- Quadrant 4 – Not important and not Urgent Tasks as shown below
Quadrant 1 -Important and Urgent Tasks
These are tasks which must be done immediately which also contribute to achieving our goals and visions. They are usually unavoidable and the consequences of not doing them may be unpleasant.
They are mostly made up of crises, deadlines and problems. Examples include finishing an assignment or application due tomorrow, applying for a job offer, attending to a patient in an emergency ward, certain household chores, etc
Quadrant 2 -Important but not Urgent Tasks
These are tasks which do not have a pressing deadline. They, however, help you to achieve your important personal or professional goals and help you fulfil your overall mission and purpose.
They focus on relationships, planning, regular work and improving yourself. Examples include studying, praying, attending lectures, meditating, spending time with family, planning for the week, taking an online course, reading books, etc.
You should focus on spending more of your time doing activities in this quadrant because they are the activities which provide you with lasting success, happiness and fulfilment. It’s very difficult for many people to focus on this quadrant because firstly they don’t see its value and secondly we are naturally biased to focus on the most urgent and pressing needs first.
Quadrant 3 – Urgent but not Important tasks
These are tasks which must be done immediately but do not help you achieve your goals. They are mostly in the form of interruptions from other people who need your help in achieving their own goals.
Examples include phone calls, text messages, requests from work colleagues to perform an urgent favour on their behalf, parents wanting you to help with a chore, helping a mate with their homework or project, etc.
A lot of people spend most of their time in this quadrant because most of the works are short and tangible and there’s a sense of satisfaction and achievement when they are done with tasks in this quadrant.
You should try to delegate these tasks to other people to be done on your behalf if you can. You can also reschedule them if possible. Sometimes, depending on the situation, it’s also okay to politely say “No” to other people and encourage them to solve their own problems.
Quadrant 4 – Not Important and Not Urgent Tasks
These tasks are not urgent. Neither do they help you achieve your goals. They are usually things we do to while away time or “release stress”. Examples include playing games, surfing the internet mindlessly, chatting with friends on social media, watching TV, movies, etc
You do not need to eliminate them altogether. For instance, after a stressful week, watching a movie or playing a game may be just what you need to release stress. However, you should try to minimise how much time you spend doing these things as much as possible.
So, in summary, you should aim at reducing time spent in Quadrant 1, 3 and 4 and increase time spent in Quadrant 2. By proper planning and eliminating procrastination, you can prevent quadrant 2 tasks from becoming urgent and have better control over your time.
There are a lot of tools that can help you implement the Eisenhower Matrix. I personally recommend. Ike task management app for Android which hasgreat functionality and a beautiful interface built specifically to implement the Eisenhower matrix. Download Ike from Google Play.
Here is short YouTube video summarising the Eisenhower matrix.
So, that’s it! Check out my post on How to Become More Productive using The Pomodoro Technique.
How to your manage your time and prioritise tasks? Share them in the comments section below.