How To Decide on What’s Urgent & Important Using Eisenhower’s Matrix

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. – Dwight Eisenhower

Imagine this scenario: We wake up each day, prepare ourselves at work, feeling drained even though it is just the start of the week. We have a long list to do. All tasks seems so important and due at the same time we don’t know where, or how to start. It is not hard to imagine right? Cause we’ve all been there, yes. I know the feeling guys.

What Should Be Done First?

I thought there would be no answer to the question, “What should be done first?” if your mails were bombarded with “ASAP, I need this now, This is urgent, Important, Prioritize thisToday’s the deadline” etc. etc. Adding up to the list all the things you need to accomplish as a sociable human being. At last! After attending a seminar at work about time management, I finally know how to decide what to do first, what to do later and even what to leave behind or totally eliminate.

EISENHOWER MATRIX/ EISENHOWER’S PRIORITY MATRIX

Dwight Eisenhower is the 34th President of the United States who served as a general in the army and as Allied Force Supreme Commander during World War II. He is the brain of this productivity matrix we used until this present as a helpful tool and guide to stay productive and to wisely decide and manage our time.

Let’s take a look first at the difference between important and urgent:

IMPORTANT – such activities can lead to achieving our goals.

URGENT – such activities demand immediate action.

The Eisenhower Urgent-Important Matrix

There’s a saying, “When something is urgent, rush it. When something is important, prioritize it.” So let’s explain each quadrant to help us decide which tasks should we rush, prioritize or even ignore!

QUADRANT 1: DO NOW

These tasks are both urgent and important. These are things we need to do now because they are critical to our lives or in our career. One example is during emergencies. You may not want to schedule on when to call firefighters during fire. Everything will be ashes if done too late. Deadlines – another perfect example. Tasks that are due today fall on Quadrant 1. We can even avoid procrastination if we’re able to do this ahead of time. Though sometimes, unforeseen tasks or emergencies happen and we never wanted these things to be done later or else, we might face the consequences. Tasks in Q1 contribute to our long-term goals, be it career-wise or personal.

QUADRANT 2: SCHEDULE

Tasks that are important but not urgent belong to Quadrant 2. These are important to achieving your goals, long-term or short-term, are not in urgency and requires ample of time to do. Your boss gave you an adhoc report due next Monday — schedule! Because these tasks have a tendency become urgent and fall on Quadrant 1 if not scheduled properly. On a personal aspect, check-ups, family gatherings or dinner dates fall on Q2. Dinner dates are important to you, personal relationships are important to you, but sometimes, we need to prioritize first things first.

QUADRANT 3: DELEGATE

Urgent but not important tasks are hindrances to achieving your goals. Common scenario here: you’re on your busy day to finish a deadline, a co-worker asks for a favor if you could accompany him/her to the washroom or for a yosi-break (cigarette break). Well, call of nature is urgent, but I guess you can say ‘No’ if you’re really in a tight deadline, or you can point someone else (haha) who’s not busy. Delegate is the keyword. 🙂

QUADRANT 4: LIMIT OR ELIMINATE

And lastly, Quadrant 4, the special space for tasks that are neither important nor urgent. Actually, I could illustrate the matrix with this quadrant as the biggest among four. Why? Because these tasks are distractions, waste of time and unnecessary and we have lots of them. Perfect example is Facebook. You’re home at 7pm, you eat your dinner at eight, prepare to sleep and browse your Facebook by the time you lie in bed at nine. Promised yourself to have just one hour browsing but didn’t noticed the time and actually fall asleep at two in the morning.

Quadrant four does not mean to be blank. Life should be balanced. We still need some refreshments in life after all those hard-work. We need the social media platform, specially nowadays. We don’t have to totally disregard this in our lives but try to limit at least. But I’ll give you one example on things to eliminate totally if you’re asking for one — gossip. “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” – Marie Curie. Plan about your goals, spend time with doing your dreams or the things you need to achieve your dreams. We don’t need to be busy. we need to be productive.

List your Tasks!

Grab a piece of paper and try to list all the things you do in a day, starting from the time you wake up. Then, start identifying from which quadrant they belong. Usually, we’ll notice that we are spending too much time on Quadrant 1 and 3 when we should be focusing on Quadrant 2. It makes us look busy, makes us feel more accomplished, but actually, we just looked like dogs in a treadmill catching for breaths when we can easily just move and run in our own pace, in our own place, planning our future.

I will end this blog post with a quote below. So let’s start planning our lives with this tool. It may be hard at first but once we’ve imprinted this in our system, it’ll all be just a piece of cake. 🙂

Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” – H.L Hunt

 

She’s a traveler, a frustrated accountant. An artist and a writer at heart. Unpredictable and spontaneous. A little weird and a little mysterious. So chase her and run with her. You’ll never get bored and you’ll never regret it.

I would like to know your thoughts. Please leave a comment.