The Eisenhower Matrix – helping people prioritise since 1960
The new year is here and no doubt you have already thought about your new year’s resolutions. If you are like so many of us you will say to yourself “And this year I am going to stick to them” but then life gets in the way… there is always something more urgent that needs to be done first or maybe just something that is more appealing . Those well intended resolutions start slipping down the to-do list until eventually they slip right off.
If only there was some way you could prioritise all the tasks you needed to get done and decide which tasks to do right away, which to delay, delegate or even eliminate completely.
Enter the Eisenhower matrix!
How it started
The Eisenhower Matrix, or the Eisenhower Box as it’s also referred to, is a productivity strategy created in the 1960s by the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower was often hailed as “one of the world’s most productive people” for his ability to sustain his high level of productivity over many decades. He is famously quoted as saying:
“most things which are urgent are not important, and most things
which are important are not urgent.”
For many, the Eisenhower Matrix still remains a popular time management method to this day.
How it works
It’s simple – first list all the tasks you need to get done. Then draw two columns to the right of them one for important and one for urgent. Now tick each item that is either urgent or important, you can also tick both or neither. They might seem like the same concept but ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ mean two different things in that ‘Important’ tasks are completed to meet a long-term goal whereas ‘urgent’ tasks are time-sensitive and demand immediate attention.
Now divide a sheet of paper into 4 quadrants (as shown in the image above) and write all the tasks that are both important and urgent in the top left quadrant. Next write all the tasks that are urgent only in the bottom left quadrant, all the asks that are important only in the top right quadrant and finally tasks that are neither important nor urgent in the bottom right quadrant. All that’s left to do is action the items according to the image below and hey presto you have prioritised all your tasks.
Now adopt the following approach:
- “DO” it now (important and urgent): Urgent tasks that need to be completed immediately. Example: Phone an irate client back or respond to an email.
- “SCHEDULE” for later (important but not urgent): Tasks that can be scheduled for another day. Example: Complete a survey or reply to a non-urgent email.
- “DELEGATE” or assign to someone else (not important but urgent): Tasks that can be passed on to someone else. Example: Book a flight or complete a tax return
- “ELIMINATE” – Don’t do it (not important and not urgent): Tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Example: Browse social media or reading news articles.
As effective as Eisenhower’s box can be, it’s not perfect. If you don’t know what your exact goals are, it would be difficult to pinpoint which tasks take precedence over others. But the advantages ultimately outweigh the disadvantages.
- It can be implemented on a large or small scale
- You can identify which tasks need your urgent attention versus those that can be scheduled for a later.
- You can use it in both a personal and professional capacity
- You’ll be able to improve your time management skills
- Tasks can only be evaluated based on two factors – urgency and importance.
- It can be time-consuming to list
You can be more productive
Here are some tips on how you can use the Eisenhower Matrix effectively.
- Make a to-do list and add to it throughout the day.
- Set a limit to how many tasks you can add to each quadrant.
- Plan ahead by jotting down the following day’s tasks the night before, then review it again in the morning.
- Once you have determined what your bad habits are, find tools that will help you break them.
- Get rid of any distractions.
- Lastly, keep track of all the tasks you passed on to others. This will ensure that they are completed on time.
Try it for at least 5 days – all you need is a piece of A4 paper, a whiteboard, or even post-it notes and a pen. By categorising your tasks based on importance and urgency, you can become just as productive than President Eisenhower himself.
Make sure signing up with the IMM Graduate school is in the “DO” category. Applications for 2020 are now open! https://imm.ac.za/