The 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, in his 1954 speech addressed to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
This principle or concept later formed the basis of the Eisenhower priority matrix. This matrix helps organize and complete tasks based on their priorities. It eventually can help you become more productive.
Let’s first take a look at the Eisenhower priority matrix to understand it.
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The Eisenhower Priority Matrix
As we can see, the Eisenhower priority matrix consists of four quadrants. They are:
- Urgent and Important
- Urgent and Not Important
- Not Urgent and Important
- Not Urgent and Not Important
Each of the quadrants can be assigned an attribute.
- Urgent and Important – DO
- Urgent and Not Important – Delegate
- Not Urgent and Important – Plan
- Not Urgent and Not Important – Eliminate
You can divide tasks into four quadrants according to their urgency and importance using the Eisenhower priority matrix. As described, you can take actions that can help increase your productivity.
Do the Urgent and Important Tasks
The tasks that lie in this quadrant need your attention right away. You need to complete them as soon as possible. For example, say it’s the financial year-end. As a business owner, the most important and most urgent task should be getting your financial books in order. Thus, tasks like tallying your account sheets, completing pending payments, and other finance-related tasks should be done immediately.
Delegate the Urgent but Not Important Tasks
The tasks that lie in this quadrant are urgent but don’t necessarily require your attention. They can be passed on to others, like your team members. Moreover, the delegated tasks need not be completed entirely by the assigned individual. They can take the initial action while you can follow up later.
For example, you can ask your business development manager to complete the initial processes of finalizing a client. You can then finish the process later when you get the time.
Plan the Tasks That Are Not Urgent but Important
Once you are done with the urgent and important tasks, you can plan the tasks in this quadrant. These tasks are important but don’t require your immediate attention. Moreover, they can’t be passed to others due to their importance. These tasks need to be completed by you. However, you do them for a later time and schedule them accordingly.
For example, as a project manager, you can schedule your project budget review later. This task can be done at your convenience but will require your attention.
Delete the Tasks That Are Not Urgent and Not Important
The tasks that lie in this quadrant can be gotten rid of entirely. They don’t bring any value, add to the clutter, and waste time. They can be termed as ‘Productivity Killers.’ These tasks can be done only if you have leisure time to spend or need to take a break from work. For example, the tasks that can be deleted include deleting old emails, checking social media, or playing games.
How the Eisenhower priority Matrix Helps Improve Productivity
The Eisenhower priority matrix helps us figure out how we should spend our time. The following two factors associated with the matrix help to improve our productivity.
Organizing Tasks in Quadrants
Since the tasks are arranged in different quadrants, we know what tasks need to be completed urgently. Similarly, we also have an idea about which tasks need to be done ourselves, while which can be passed on to others. Tackling and tackling off the tasks in such a manner helps make most of the time we have. It also ensures that there isn’t a delay with any tasks and ensures each is completed on time.
The Eisenhower priority matrix helps allocate your time to the tasks better. This ultimately helps with time management. For example, by setting the priorities and urgency level for tasks, you know which task needs your time first. Based on the duration the task will require to complete and the deadline, you can better manage your time by working on the task accordingly.
Eliminating Non-Productive Behavior
The Eisenhower priority matrix helps consciously abstain from habits or behavior that wastes your time. For instance, every time you want to scroll through social media mindlessly, you must take a look at the Eisenhower priority matrix. It will keep reminding you that the activity isn’t fruitful. Instead, you should focus your time and attention on completing other tasks in the DO, PLAN, or DELEGATE quadrant.
Eisenhower Priority Matrix Tips
Here are some tips that can help you utilize the Eisenhower priority matrix to its full potential.
Color Coding the Quadrants
Humans are visual creatures and respond to visual stimuli. Assigning colors to the quadrants can help you understand the gravity of the situation better and quickly. This will ensure that you will carry out the tasks more effectively. For example, you can have the DO quadrant colored red to indicate the urgency of these tasks. Similarly, you can have the PLAN quadrant colored yellow, the DELEGATE quadrant colored green, and the ELIMINATE quadrant in gray/black.
Separating Professional and Personal Tasks
Having a single matrix for professional and personal commitments can make things overwhelming. It can further add to the confusion. Thus, to avoid these issues and ensure there is no overlapping, create separate matrices for professional and personal tasks.
Limiting the Number of Tasks per Quadrant
Having too many tasks in a quadrant will complicate things further. Thus, limit the number of tasks in each quadrant to around seven or eight. This will help optimize the matrix time management and ensure that the tasks are completed.
The Eisenhower priority matrix proves to be an excellent tool to organize, prioritize, and carry out your tasks. It can be used for professional and personal tasks as well. You can improve your productivity not only at the workplace but in every aspect of your life with the Eisenhower priority matrix.