The Eisenhower Matrix

If I say The Eisenhower Matrix you’re likely in one of two categories:

    • Thinking ‘YES! What a life saver!’
    • Or ‘what on earth is that?’

If you’re the former, congratulate yourself, you’re likely the master of productivity.

If you’re the latter, do not panic! I’m about to explain exactly what it is and how it can help revolutionise your life.

 

A bit of background

Dwight D. Eisenhower a five-star general during WWII AND the 34th President of the United States was a phenomenally productive man (as you could guess from his track record).

He famously quoted an unnamed university president during a 1954 speech saying, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Over 3 decades later Stephen Covey repackaged Eisenhower’s words into the Eisenhower Matrix and published it in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

 

So, what is the Eisenhower Matrix?

 

Well, the Eisenhower matrix, also known as time management matrix, the Eisenhower Box, and the urgent-important matrix is a highly effective task management tool.

The basis is that you divide your tasks into four categories:

    • Do: The tasks you’ll do first
    • Schedule: The tasks you’ll schedule for later
    • Delegate: The tasks you’ll delegate
    • Delete: The tasks you’ll delete

See the handy diagram below:

In reality we can find it hard to distinguish between urgent and important. Luckily for us, Covey broke it down for us:

 

Urgent matters require immediate action.

Urgent tasks pop up and demand your attention NOW. Often, urgent matters come with clear consequences for not completing these tasks. Urgent tasks are unavoidable, but spending too much time putting out fires can produce a great deal of stress and could result in burnout.

 

Important matters are those that contribute to long-term goals and life values.

These items require planning and thoughtful action. When you focus on important matters you manage your time, energy, and attention rather than mindlessly expending these resources. What is important is subjective and depends on your own values and personal goals. No one else can define what is important for you.

 

What exactly goes into each quadrant?

 

Quadrant 1: Do

This is where you’ll place any tasks that are both urgent and important. When you see a task on your to-do list that must be done now, has clear consequences, and affects your long-term goals, place it in this quadrant.

There should be no question about which tasks fall into this quadrant, because these are the tasks that are at the front of your mind and are likely stressing you out the most.

For example:

    • An urgent client deadline
    • Covering a sick colleague
    • A client brings a problem to your attention

 

Quadrant 2: Schedule

This quadrant is for any tasks that are not urgent but are still important. These tasks affect your long-term goals but don’t need to be done right away, so can be scheduled for later, after you’ve completed quadrant one.

For example:

    • Networking
    • Developing skills
    • Exercise

 

Quadrant 3: Delegate

In quadrant three you’ll place any tasks that must be completed now, but don’t affect your long-term goals.

Because you don’t have a personal attachment to these tasks and they likely don’t require your specific skill set, you can delegate these tasks to other members of your team or outsource them. Delegating tasks is one of the most efficient ways to manage your workload, giving you the time to focus on quadrants one and two.

For example:

    • Social media posts
    • Newsletter creation
    • Responding to emails

 

Quadrant 4: Delete

Any tasks that you have left after adding to the first three quadrants, are those to be placed in quadrant four. The leftover tasks are not urgent or important.

These unimportant, non-urgent distractions are simply getting in the way of you accomplishing your goals. Place these remaining items on your to-do list in the fourth quadrant, which is the “delete” quadrant.

For example:

    • Scrolling through social media
    • Procrastination activities

 

Our tips to make it easier

The first time you sort your tasks into the Eisenhower Matrix you may struggle slightly, not knowing where each task goes, but trust us, the more you do it the easier it will get. Soon it’ll become second nature and you’ll do it automatically.

 

Use colour

As you can see from the diagram above, we’ve colour coded each quadrant. This allows you to visualise you high-priority items whether you’re looking at them in the quadrant or in your to-do list.

Another option is to use tags, for example when a quadrant one email comes in tag it with @urgent and @important. You’ll then be able to search your emails using the relevant tags.

 

Separate personal and professional

Adding too many items to the matrix is overwhelming, we tend to stick to a maximum of 10 per quadrant. An easy way to keep your matrix simple is to have a separate matrix for personal and professional tasks.

 

Eliminate to conquer

If you are staring at a giant list and feeling totally overwhelmed about where to place everything try starting in quadrant 4.

Skim through your to-do list and get rid of all of those that don’t need to be there. Once that is done you will be able to prioritise more clearly.

Are you ready to bring Eisenhower into your life and finally get on top of your to-do list?

 

See you on the productive side…