“What’s important is rarely urgent and what is urgent is rarely important.”
In his decorated tenures as President of the United Sates and as a five-star General, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a highly accomplished person. From being called the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II to launch NASA and creating the Interstate Highway System in America, Eisenhower’s legacy will forever be etched into history.
However, whilst his accomplishments say a bit about his personality, they also explain his ability to work productively, in his chosen professions. This constructive system of organisation, motivated him to handle his daily tasks in a pattern that enabled him to finish his long-term targets.
That is why the aforementioned quotation, frequently ascribed to Eisenhower, has a lasting, and even modern effect, as it asks us to think seriously about time management — what’s urgent and what’s important.
The Eisenhower Matrix was a concept popularized by Eisenhower’s time management and productivity abilities, that could allow the user to enhance their own effectiveness within the office — in pursuit of the desired, long-term targets.
Urgent & Important
Do it immediately
Important but not Urgent
Decide when you will do it
Urgent but not Important
Delegate to Somebody Else
Neither Urgent nor Important
Do not do at all
The first point to note with Eisenhower’s Matrix is that the connection between urgency and importance. The differentiation here, is an important one to make since it essentially tells us how we are supposed to frame the tasks and goals that we are to finish:
Something which needs immediate action. A task to focus narrowly on, without distractions.
Tasks which work as a stepping stone for a bigger target, within the job, business etc..
As a matrix, the Eisenhower concept is relatively straight forward: A square, split into four quadrants, with each strategy asking us to define tasks with their urgency and importance to organise our time.
Quadrant 1: Urgent & Important
The first quadrant speaks to the most pressing and essential of tasks. Things you categorise as belonging to the first quadrant are things which should be accomplished immediately, on the same day.
Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent
The next quadrant refers to jobs that do need to get completed, but not in this very moment. For these tasks, you’ll be set due dates for when they’ll be completed.
Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not significant
The next quadrant asks you to assign the things that whilst urgent aren’t important for you.
Quadrant 4: Neither urgent nor important
The last quadrant only asks you to eliminate tasks that fill this radius, or at least postpone for a date. These definitely feature more entertainment related jobs.
How to use the Matrix
In precisely the exact same manner a’To-Do’ list functions, so too does the Eisenhower Matrix. By developing a list of tasks which will need to be completed — instantly or otherwise — you can begin putting each item into the matrix. As stated earlier, it is important to distinguish between urgency and importance .
From there, it is about categorising your job into each of the four quadrants, finally to help you focus on what is important.
To give you an idea of what these jobs may look like, we have re-created the Eisenhower Matrix with relevant examples to get a business owner:
Urgent & Important
(Can it immediately)
- Deal with an escalated customer issue.
- Complete a job with an immediate deadline.
Important but not urgent
(Decide when you are going to do it)
- Follow-up on a client enquiry.
- Research for an upcoming project.
Urgent but Not Important
(Delegate to Somebody Else)
- Post firm updates on social networking.
- Data-entry or administrative work.
Neither Urgent nor significant
(Do not do at all)
- Browsing social media, web surfing.
- Sorting through email/junk mail.
Getting the most from the Matrix
At its heart, Eisenhower’s Matrix needs to enable individuals to concentrate on their long-term goals/vision, by cutting down the menial tasks within their workload, entirely.
This isn’t necessarily a simple thing to do, since the appeal of’keeping busy’ in lieu of having to remove the things that are not necessary, is powerful. Therefore, using the Matrix as your work productivity tool does need some intrapersonal deliberations, as it asks you to wonder if certain jobs — which you might have been doing for a long time — are applicable.
This isn’t to say that implementing the Eisenhower Matrix to your daily life will result in an immediate effect on your life. If your daily morning routine consists of sorting through your emails, which could be a hard thing to shake.
However, like anything, creating a regular takes some time. Look at labelling everything in your job and private life, into the four quadrants. Rather than sorting through your emails one by one, examine the topic line and register where that email fits inside the Eisenhower matrix.
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