What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix, which is also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you prioritize tasks by urgency & importance. It can be used to find and rule out the tasks that are not productive or delegate them. This is a great solution for many people who can’t identify how they spend their time.
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.Dwight Eisenhower
Who is Eisenhower?
Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Texas and raised in Kansas. He was one of America’s greatest military commanders and the 34th President of the United States serving two terms from 1953 until 1961. Being the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II and NATO’s first supreme commander, he had to make critical decisions every single day. It was important to make near perfect decisions as it affects a lot of people.
He followed a principle that allowed prioritizing the tasks at hand based on their urgency and importance. The reason that his principle was so popular is that he could sustain his productivity for not just weeks or months, but years together. Many people around the world still follow his principle to make their time productive. And it is a proven strategy to make you more productive and utilize the time for the best.
How to use the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower matrix has four quadrants split based on urgency and importance. The matrix can be modified according to one’s needs such as a short-term goal or a long-term business plan. And it will still provide the desired results.
Eisenhower’s matrix consists of four quadrants indicating the possibilities of urgency and importance.
- Urgent and Important: You need to do these tasks immediately.
- Important and Not Urgent: You can schedule these tasks to do later.
- Urgent and Not Important: You can delegate these tasks to someone else.
- Not Important and Not Urgent: You have to get rid of this task.
An example of how my Eisenhower matrix looks like:
If you like this template, you can download it at no cost for your personal use. (Link at the bottom)
The four possibilities of the Eisenhower matrix explained:
Urgent and Important
These are the tasks that you feel the urge to do immediately. They may be anything from answering a call to going to work. These are the work that you have to do right away and are really important as it requires immediate attention. These tasks are given the highest priority and it is recommended to do them as soon as you can.
For me, writing an article falls in this category so I prefer doing it first thing in the morning. This sets the stage for the rest of the day to be productive.
Important and Not Urgent
This category consists of the tasks that are important in the long term but don’t require action right away. In other words, these can be scheduled to be done at another time.
A task that is important doesn’t always mean it’s urgent and requires immediate attention. Putting this aside, for the time being, gives you more time that you can focus on tasks that belong to the first possibility.
Going to the gym, finding out business strategies are important to me, but not urgent. So I don’t spend too much time on them right now. Note that this doesn’t apply to you and this is the possibility where everyone has different opinions. So it’s essential to classify the tasks at hand accordingly.
Urgent and Not Important
The tasks that you feel the urge to do immediately but they are not really required, fall under this category. This type of task can be delegated to someone else, especially if you are in the middle of doing tasks that fall in category 1.
For example, if you are preparing for a presentation and you find yourself checking social media constantly in between or doing other unproductive work. Preparing for a presentation takes priority over other tasks, ideally, you need to put your phone away to remove distractions. These distractions such as phone ringing can get in the way of your presentation and hinder the work that you do.
So it’s better to do delegate these tasks to someone else if you can’t focus on them currently. When someone asks you to do their work, make sure you finish your important task first then consider that request.
It makes a big difference if you could identify that what’s important for them may not be important to you.
Not Important and Not Urgent
When a task that takes up your time is neither important nor urgent, it is time to reconsider doing that. Such tasks are the ones that hold you back from doing the things you like and harm your productivity.
Common examples of this category are binge-watching a whole season, scrolling on social media endlessly for the whole day.
While they don’t have to be eliminated altogether, you have to find a balance between the things you do in your free time and the things you do apart from them.
It is optimal to spend most of your time on categories 1 and 2 and give the least possible amount to category 4 so that you have the energy to keep going without getting drained.
How to categorize the tasks?
It can be really easy to mistake the priorities and classify the tasks. So the next time you do something, ask yourself, “Will this take me to my goal?”. If your answer is Yes, then the task belongs in quadrant 1 or 2. If the task can be done by someone else then it belongs to quadrant 3. An answer No can only mean one thing, that you have to minimize it or eliminate it.
A process of elimination also comes in handy if you can’t seem to differentiate the tasks. The best use of time involves telling yourself “just put a little more effort” and work on the things that matter the most.
And when you find yourself engaged in a task that is unproductive, tell yourself “Imagine the work that I could’ve done when I was doing this”. Do this consistently till you no longer feel the urge to do something of no importance.
Have I tried this method and does it work?
This method requires that you identify your goals and know what you are working for. Once you realize that, this method will be a major factor in increasing productivity. This method has helped me in eliminating countless hours on unimportant things that I would rather spend productively.
The book 7 habits of highly effective people mentions this method. Read it if you have not already.
The prerequisite for this method goes without saying: Find your goal and what drives you to your goal. Identifying this will help you classify the tasks much easier.
I recommend you to try this method to increase your productivity. It can be used for even the smallest of tasks, as long as you are willing to become a better person and stop procrastinating.
Follow this link to download the Template: Download Eisenhower Matrix Template