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by Niki Kovács on February 7, 2019
Is being snowed under with way too many tasks something that you know by experience? Is prioritizing your to do list a common struggle for you? Well, two good news then: 1) you are not alne with this; 2) the Eisenhower matrix is here to the rescue.
Eisenhower matrix is also known as urgent and important matrix, and is a very effective and easy-to-use method for becoming more productive and using your time effectively. It is useful not only in your business life but also when it comes to simple everyday tasks. Showing the matrix to your colleagues can be beneficial for them as individuals and can boost the productivity level of the whole team, too. Let’s dig deeper into the topic.
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the US Army general and was the 34th president of the United States, also heading up the D-Day invasion. Making decisions was a constant task of his, and he had the key to doing this productively. He shared the key to successful time management: “We often confuse the urgent with the important, the important with the urgent.”
Based on this, a matrix was created (with his name), which is a very effective tool to set priorities when making decisions. Throughout a day we often end up focusing on tasks that seem important however they are not, they are only urgent. This is what the matrix help you to deal with.
There is a grid that you come up with, and fill in with the many tasks that you need to put into a priority order. Some tasks are important but not urgent, others are not important but urgent. Some of them are both and others are neither.
The goal with this method is to focus on what’s really important. The most interesting question for your company is: What are the tasks that can provide you the most return on investment? These become the important ones. Selecting these correctly can boost your efficiency and save you a lot of time.
The below stated example is a very basic one with the aim to present how the matrix is supposed to look like.
Of course, you can also list these tasks otherwise. If e.g. today is the last day of the month, making a schedule for next month becomes an urgent task. You can also make a difference within one category by putting them closer to or further from the origo of the matrix, marking them with numbers or letters.
Once you recognize what you spend your time with, you can start making choices based on your goals, values and priorities. The aim of using the matrix is to spend more time on the important stuff instead of focusing on the not important but urgent ones.
Here you can see what to do with the tasks of each quadrant:
Use most of your time and energy for things that advance a project (or your life) forward. This is something you should also keep in mind when filling up the quadrants, so that you look at your tasks from the most objective point of view possible.
What to do exactly with the tasks of the categories? Let’s see below.
Important and urgent tasks are the ones you should do immediately or asap. Crisis management, deadlines and solving problems are the most common items belonging to this quadrant. First you need to decide which tasks support your priorities and then schedule time for these.
This quadrant includes important but not urgent tasks. Examples for these are planning and critical thinking strategies, relationship building and recreation.
The items here are urgent, but not important tasks. These are mostly related to your responsibilities such as interruptions, activities, meetings. Delegate the tasks that do not support your priorities. In some cases you might not be able to delegate a specific task. If this happens, you should look at the reasons behind it, and take the neccessary steps into consideration. If you need to develop a team member prior to handing off these tasks, it can take more time than just doing it yourself. However, if this is a task that comes up quite often, you possibly save time on the long run by showing the team member what to do once, and delegate the task to them every time.
The tasks to delete are the nor important neither urgent ones, which are considered time wasters.
Eisenhower matrix helps you to spend minimal time on planning by using a quick, automatic method. Besides, prioritisation enables you detect your priorities and time wasters you might not find otherwise. The matrix is perfect when you have busy days but feel like done nothing by the end of the day.
If using the matrix becomes a part of your routine, it will take less time to create and implement. You’ll also be able to get to know yourself better during the process of reaching the highest time management productivity level.
You can use the good old paper-plan combination to create the matrix. If you are more of an artist and creator type, or simply enjoy putting your thoughts on paper, you definitely want to do this.
Besides, there are other possibilities for applying the method. One of the most common office tools is Eisenhower matrix productivity tool for Outlook, TaskCracker. With the help of this solution, you can move tasks around and prioritise your day and your week in a quick and efficient way.
There is no need to let your to do list take over the control over your life and time. Tasks are there all the time shouting in your ear? You can make them shut up finally, you have the tool for it.
Eisenhower matrix is a tool that is easy to use. However, you should keep in mind the importance of looking at your tasks from an objective point of view. Consider your tasks’ importance and urgency for real. Put on paper what is true for you instead of what you wish for.
We hope that this article helps you deal with the scarce resource that holds the same challenge for each and every one of us: time.
What do you think about the Eisenhower matrix? Have you ever used it? Tell us your opinion on the topic of time management in the comment section.
Niki is an enthusiastic coffee admirer and ballroom dance lover with the desire to travel and explore the world. She's dreaming of owning her own cafe, speaking perfect French and making the best ever pancakes one day.