In our last article, we discussed how to develop good time management skills to Become Unstoppable. We emphasized the importance of prioritizing tasks through writing lists, organizing your time, and avoiding procrastination.
This concept is great in theory, but prioritizing is not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes it is hard to determine which tasks are truly important and which tasks hold some weight but should be further down on your to-do list.
In this article, we’re going to talk in depth about the Eisenhower Decision Matrix and how it can help you build your time management skills and decipher between urgent and priority tasks.
What Is the Eisenhower Decision Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix was developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States who also served as a General in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. With his many titles and his wholly successful career, Eisenhower was the epitome of productivity and time management. His experience and skills led him to develop the world-famous Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, is a powerful tool for time management. It helps you to decide on and prioritize your tasks based on urgency and importance while sorting out less urgent and less important tasks.
The matrix consists of four categories:
1) urgent and important tasks;
2) not urgent but important tasks;
3) urgent and not important tasks; and
4) not urgent and not important tasks.
We will go over each of these four principles in more detail.
Category One – Urgent and Important Tasks (Do First)
The first category consists of urgent and important tasks or the “do first” items on your to-do list. These tasks require your immediate attention as they are related to your long-term life and career goals.
Category One tasks will usually consist of deadlines, emergencies, and crisis situations.
Here are a few examples of possible Category One tasks:
- Emails that require immediate attention and cannot wait.
- Any deadline (homework, deadlines for work, tax deadline, etc.)
- Any emergency or crisis.
By planning and organizing ahead of time, you can prevent most important responsibilities from becoming urgent. If you get tasks done ahead of the impending deadline, you won’t be stressed at the last minute. For example, if you know that you have a term paper due on a certain date, get it done a week in advance and scratch it off of your (probably long) list of things to do.
Category Two – Not Urgent but Important Tasks (Schedule)
The next category consists of tasks that are not urgent but are nevertheless important. You should schedule these activities into your planner or calendar.
These tasks typically consist of self-care, self-improvement, social relationships, and planning for the future.
Examples of Category Two tasks include:
- Family time.
- Weekly planning (scheduling out tasks for the week ahead).
- Weekly financial planning.
- Grocery shopping and errands.
- Spending time pursuing your hobbies.
Duties in this category might take a lot of willpower to complete because there are no deadlines looming over your head. You should still be motivated and driven to get these tasks done, especially when it comes to self-care. Exercising, meditating, and making time for hobbies are often pushed aside for more urgent matters. It is important to instill a sense of urgency by scheduling the tasks into your calendar, creating your own deadline.
Category Three – Urgent but Not Important Tasks (Delegate)
Tasks that fall under Category Three are responsibilities that are urgent but are not important as they do not further your goals. These are duties that you should delegate whenever possible and include doing favors for other people.
Some specific examples include:
- Responding to phone calls and text messages.
- Emails that are not important but need attention.
- Favors for fellow employees, friends, or family members.
- Answering questions from a new coworker.
These types of tasks are not wrong but it’s important that you don’t spend all of your time helping others in turn, forgetting about yourself. For this reason, it’s wise to refer these favors to someone else who can better help, whenever possible.
Category Four – Not Urgent and Not Important Tasks (Don’t Do)
Category four activities are the “time-wasters.” These activities are neither urgent nor important and don’t do anything to bring you closer to your goals. These are the “don’t do” tasks and are considered distractions.
Examples of category four tasks include:
- Watching TV and movies.
- Surfing the web without a purpose.
- Scrolling through social media.
- Playing video games.
Unfortunately, many of us spend way too much time in this category. That’s not to say that you can never have some unproductive leisure time. It’s important to unplug for a while and allow yourself a little entertainment but you need to set a time limit. Shoot for no more than one hour a day on these activities.
How to Use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix: Tools & Tips
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a great guideline to follow, as long as you take the steps to get things done. Using this matrix, you have to put in the effort of planning, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing in order to make the matrix work for you.
You can apply the time management tips that we discussed in part one of this series. Here’s how:
- Make a to-do list and organize it based on the four categories of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. Your list should start with tasks that fall in Category One and end with tasks that fall into Category Four.
- Avoid procrastination! Remember, don’t spend more than one hour a day doing useless activities. Instead, use every moment as a chance to scratch something off of that list.
- Focus on doing one thing and one thing only before moving on to the next task.
- Organize your time so that you can dedicate yourself to doing certain duties at certain times. For example, you might want to schedule the working part of your day to Category One and Category Three tasks. After work, you can set aside a couple of hours to get some Category Two tasks done, such as exercising or relaxing an hour before bed with an inspiring book.
- Take mental notes of your time management plan. Ask yourself, “How is this working for me?” and “Where are the areas I can improve?” As you progress, you can tweak your time management plan to make it more successful.
- Schedule in your Category Two tasks. As mentioned above, these functions dedicated to self-care and self-love often get brushed under the rug. Remember, they may not be urgent, but they are important, so schedule in YOU time!
- BONUS: Download the Eisenhower app for the iPhone or the Ike – To Do List, Task List app for Android. These are apps that you can use to organize your time and tasks based on the Eisenhower Matrix.
Schedule some self-care into your routine by booking a session at Gloveworx today. A healthy body and mind are what will carry you to success!