If you clicked on this article, you were drawn in by the prospect of prioritizing your tasks. Maybe you don’t know what the Eisenhower Matrix is, but you liked the Matrix movies and you kind of remembered that Eisenhower was a president or something. No worries – I am here to help you out with this strategy of prioritizing the tasks to be completed.
History of the Eisenhower Matrix
Other names for this matrix include the decision matrix or important/urgent matrix, but ultimately came from a quote by President Dwight Eisenhower.
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Dwight D. Eisenhowerhttps://woven.com/blog/the-eisenhower-matrix
From this quote, people took away the fact that there are four main categories that our tasks and activities fall into: urgent/important, urgent/not important, important/not urgent, and not important/not urgent. Although inspired by the quote from Eisenhower, the concept became popularized by Stephen Covey.
How Do We Use the Matrix?
Red pill or blue pill you say? Well, let’s take a look at something that could alter how you think about prioritizing your tasks. First, ask yourself if everything seems urgent and the world is constantly on fire. If you answered yes to that question, then utilizing this strategy could benefit your planning and reduce stress in your life.
When you have a new task pop up in your personal or professional life, before acting on it, take a moment to pause and decide which of the 4 quadrants below that it belongs in. If it truly is urgent, like your kid fell outside and hit their head, then of course handle it at the moment. If it’s a work email on a Saturday morning that doesn’t really have to be handled until Monday, well … can you pause and save it for Monday?
You can do this on a daily or weekly basis, but I find it to be helpful to periodically go through my big tasks and move them to different quadrants depending on what needs to be accomplished. Here is an example of a diagram you could create to visualize your task management:
You’ll notice there is a box for the not important and not urgent tasks that says to delete. I prefer to look at this box as “in moderation” or evaluate shortcuts and strategies to become more efficient. Do I really need to get the CVS newsletter emailed to me every day? Probably not. In which case, I can delete it by unsubscribing and freeing up that inbox space and mental space. I wrote another post about email tips if you’re interested in checking that out.
So, next time someone asks you to do something or you feel that pressure that everything at work is urgent, decide if it is both urgent and important before you act. Check your 4 quadrants. If it is both urgent and important, go for it. If it’s not urgent, but still important, add it to your calendar for later in the day or in the week, but don’t forget about it. That’s why the matrix says to schedule it.
You can order these super cool daily sticky notes to keep yourself organized and prioritize each day:
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