Have you ever had one of those days where you spend a good 12 hours working with no breaks whatsoever yet you feel as unaccomplished as you were when the day started? The frustrating thing about being busy is it doesn’t always equate to being productive. When we try to do everything at once we don’t only risk being unproductive, but we also could easily feel burned out. Enter the Eisenhower Matrix, a tool that lets us distinguish between tasks that are important, not important, urgent, and not urgent.
“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
Inspired by its namesake, the 34th President of the United States who’s known for his high output and organization, the Eisenhower Matrix splits categories of tasks into quadrants to help us prioritize in terms of urgency and importance. If you struggle with any of the following, then the matrix could be very useful to you:
- putting out fires the whole day instead of crossing things off your to-do list
- being constantly busy yet feeling as if you aren’t bringing in any significant, positive impact to the team
- getting closer to your long-term goals
- delegating tasks
- saying no
The Categories of the Eisenhower Matrix
Do: important and urgent
While a task can be one of or both, it’s essential to differentiate between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. When time and attention are of the essence, then a task is considered urgent. On the other hand, a task is important when it’s detrimental to the achievement of your vision and long-term goals. Therefore, if a task has both qualities, it should be at the top of your to-do list.
Decide: important but not urgent
If a task is important but isn’t really time-sensitive, you should schedule it. A common mistake people make is they don’t devote enough time to this type of task, focusing instead on tasks that are more urgent. If you know for a fact a task falls under this quadrant, you absolutely should spend quality time on it!
Delegate: urgent but not important
It’s these tasks that can take up a lot of your time but not really enhance your productivity levels. In cases like so, it’s best to assign it to someone whose long-term goals are aligned!
Delete: not important and not urgent
Finally, if a task is neither important nor urgent, take it off your list! After all, these aren’t pressing, nor do they contribute to your long-term goals.
How do you reduce tasks from quadrants 1, 3, and 4?
If the majority of your tasks are in quadrant 2, hats off to you! That only means you’ve properly anticipated crises and are well on your way to coming up with great output that can further your growth and bring you so much closer to your goals.
Quadrant 1: important and urgent tasks
The element of time sensitivity could hamper the quality of your output. So in order to reduce tasks that are both urgent and important, put in the time to anticipate fires. Always take a look at past events and evaluate ways in which problems could be avoided in the future.
Quadrant 3: urgent but not important
If you’re swamped with urgent yet unimportant tasks, strategize on how to best delegate or limit the amount of time spent on them. One of your options is to do them all in one sitting as quickly as possible!
Quadrant 4: not urgent, not important
Take the time to evaluate whether a set of tasks that’s causing you to put in hours on end is helpful to your growth or not. If you’re absolutely sure that a task is only causing stress and is actually pulling you away from achieving your goals, it’s time to eliminate it.
In order to fully maximize the Eisenhower Matrix, it’s best to do a regular evaluation of your categorization. Know that central to the matrix are your long-term goals, values, and happiness; so making that distinction is definitely one of the keys to your success!