Eisenhower Matrix: A Framework to Prioritize Tasks Better
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Your task list can seem quite daunting and overwhelming, at times. Making sure that you eliminate the unnecessary tasks and prioritize the ones that you actually need to do is crucial. Using the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize what you do can make you more efficient and help you manage your time. It can also help you sidestep the constant feeling of considering everything to be urgent. Let’s look at the features of the Eisenhower Matrix and how you can use it.
Eisenhower Matrix: Quick Look
What is The Eisenhower Matrix?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States is credited with developing the Eisenhower Matrix. Stephen Covey popularized it as a productivity practice in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a great read if you want to become more efficient and manage your time better.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix you can add your tasks in one of the following four quadrants:
- Urgent and important
- Important, but not urgent
- Urgent, but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
It is an especially helpful tool to use if you constantly keep switching from one “urgent” task to the other and have no set plan. It is also really effective in showing you which tasks you should delegate if you have a problem with delegation.
Quadrants of The Eisenhower Matrix
Let’s look at each of the quadrants of the matrix in detail.
1. The “Do” Quadrant
These are the tasks that important and urgent that need to probably be finished the same day or by the next day. Procrastination and distractions while dealing with these tasks could result in adverse consequences. Using the Pomodoro Technique can help you deal with procrastination and staying focused.
2. The “Decide” Quadrant
The tasks in the Decide quadrant do not need to be done right now so you can create a schedule and set a completion date. It is important to note that letting procrastination or other tasks derail you from the set schedule would mean you will have to complete the tasks in this quadrant at the last moment. Set a realistic schedule for these tasks and make sure you follow it.
3. The “Delegate” Quadrant
These are tasks that are urgent which do not necessarily need your complete involvement. In these cases, even though you have a deadline to hit, you delegate these tasks to someone else. In these cases, you take more of a managerial position. This gives you some time to focus on your urgent and important tasks in the “Do” quadrant.
4. The “Delete” Quadrant
There are tasks that take up your time but do not add much to your end goals. These could include tasks that you or someone else “thinks” are important or just distractions that keep you away from your important tasks.
Things to Keep in Mind
Here are some things you need to consider to use the Eisenhower Matrix much more effectively.
Being busy is a badge of honor people like to wear, especially at work. While trying to flaunt this badge, people tend to lose focus on their end goals and what they should really be dedicating their time towards. Many times, we do something just to make ourselves and others feel that we are busy and “productive”. However, eliminating these “filler” tasks by adding them to the “Delete” quadrant would make you more productive.
When reviewing everything you have to do, take into consideration if the task fits your end goal or helps you develop your skills. Eliminating unnecessary tasks is a lot more efficient as opposed to doing something just to look busy.
Urgent vs Important
It is not uncommon to conflate “urgent” and “important”. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said:
“What is Important is seldom Urgent and what is Urgent is seldom Important”
Let’s define these two terms so that it is easier for you to sort your tasks.
Urgent: Tasks that need to be done now. Urgent tasks require immediate attention and need to be dealt with within a short time period.
Important: Tasks that add to our overall development and help us achieve our goals, personal or professional.
Failing to see the distinction would mean that you would see all your important tasks as urgent. You would end up adding a lot more tasks to the “Do” quadrant than you should which will become overwhelming.
Understanding Delegation Better
We tend to look at delegation as something managers or rich people do. But we can all benefit from delegating our tasks.
When talking about delegation, people usually visualize delegating tasks to other people. However, you can just as easily also delegate certain tasks to an app or software. For example, when I wanted to auto-schedule my gym days in my Google Calendar based on the weather, I wrote a simple program in Python. You can also delegate managing your money and investments to a RoboAdvisor like Betterment. This is typically cheaper than having a traditional advisor.
I was blown away by ideas like outsourcing and geoarbitrage your tasks to someone in a different country when I read The 4-Hour Work Week. By using remote personal assistants you can delegate some tasks to someone. This also sharpens your managerial abilities as you get better at instructing people about what to do and how to do something. Read a summary of the 4-Hour Work Week here.
Here are some resources that can help you manage your tasks and time better. These resources include some apps you could use to create your own prioritization hierarchy.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
As mentioned above, this book by Stephen Covey popularized the Eisenhower Matrix. It is a classic productivity book that lays out an approach that can make you a better person at home and work. The principles in the book help you create a structure of how to approach decision-making and time management. It can also help you in understanding how to make the most of opportunities and how to adapt to a changing environment.Buy on Amazon
TickTick is a really great app that is also free. I use it personally for recurring reminders and other tasks. You can create your own lists for separate task types. The app also lets you set priorities for every task.
In order to incorporate the Eisenhower Matrix in TickTick, you can start by creating two types of tags: important and urgent. Add the appropriate tag to each of your tasks based on which quadrant the task belongs to.
The main advantage of using an app like TickTick over pen and paper is that you can filter all your tasks by tag. This is especially useful if you have a long list of tasks. There are many other to-do apps out there that can help you achieve the same result. I have found TickTick to be the best out of the innumerable apps I have tried.Get TickTick
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