Simplify Time and Task Management with the Eisenhower Matrix
Many people waste time on tasks that don’t move them closer to their goals. This simple decision-making tool changes that.
In today’s technology-inclined society, there are digital tools that aid our day-to-day productivity. Anything you can imagine doing can be improved by the latest tech or even automated by the newest innovations. But before you can fully maximize the use of these digital tools, it’s important to understand the very concept of what makes it work — time and task management.
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Understanding how to maximize the 24 hours in your day and how you split your tasks between those hours is essential to become more productive. One of the easiest ways to practice that is through the Eisenhower Matrix.
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as Eisenhower Box or the Urgent-Important Matrix, was popularized by Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People. It was named after the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was known for his incredible ability to sustain productivity. Eisenhower Matrix is a simple decision-making tool that helps you make the distinction between tasks that are important, not important, urgent, and not urgent.
This matrix looks like this:
What’s the difference?
- Urgent: time-sensitive and demands your attention.
- Important: contributes to your long-term goals or values, but are not time-sensitive.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” -Dwight Eisenhower
How to use this decision matrix?
Each quadrant corresponds to tasks that combine two of the identifiers — urgent and important.
- Urgent and important: tasks that demand attention, with clear deadlines or significant consequences if not done in a timely fashion.
- Not urgent, but important: tasks that contribute to your goals but can be scheduled for later.. or procrastinated on.
- Urgent, but not important: tasks that need to get done but can be delegated to someone else to complete.
- Not urgent and not important: tasks that can distract you from your goals, and don’t add value.
How I use it
I’ve mentioned this in a previous post on time management practices: One of the first things I do is to finish tasks that take less than 10 minutes.
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Tasks that are in the first box “Do”, include these 10-minute activities, it may not be the same for others, but typically these small tasks are urgent and important for me. But aside from that, this is also where deadline-driven activities come in: submitting client projects or responding to inquiries about my services.
On the other hand, those that aren’t urgent but are important are items that can be scheduled for later, such as exercise, personal development, or reading new content from my favorite publishers.
Urgent tasks that aren’t important are those that need to get done, but don’t necessarily need my help to finish. Activities such as sourcing images or looking for references whenever I write posts are done by someone else when I’m working on client projects.
Lastly, tasks that can be eliminated are those that don’t add value to my goals. Sure, social media, watching movies, and playing games are important for my mental health, but in the context of productivity in my career — getting things done and using my time to reach my end goals — they are activities that can be deleted.
Here’s how it looks in summary:
Often, people use productivity and time management as an excuse instead of deciding if a task should really be done. After all, it’s much easier to keep busy and tell yourself that you just have too much tasks on your plate, than actually addressing it by separating tasks into actionable steps like the Eisenhower Matrix.
Personally, I find this Urgent-Important Tool useful as it pushes me to think whether an action is necessary. It also helps maximize my time by eliminating unimportant tasks. It isn’t the perfect strategy, but it definitely is a practice everyone should understand and start immediately.