Productivity tool: Eisenhower matrix

Do you feel like you’re really busy, but somehow things are just not being done? There’s a huge difference between busyness and productivity, but yet many entrepreneurs do get these mixed up.

We now have many tools out there to help with our productivity, but are they actually helping us? Or maybe giving us more distractions?

Usually, we make a to-do list, but how do you determine which items to tackle first? The likelihood is that your to-do list will contain more tasks than you can do in one day, so how do you arrange these?

By learning how to prioritise your tasks effectively, you can drastically increase your productivity and ensure the most urgent tasks get attended to first.

This is how the Eisenhower Matrix works.

Who is Eisenhower?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 24th President of the United States, from 1953-1961. However, he was also a five-star general in the US Army during World War II, as well as being NATO’s first supreme commander.

President Eisenhower had to continuously make tough decisions about which tasks should get his attention each day and then in a 1954 speech, he said the following:

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.”

It wasn’t President Eisenhower who created his own matrix which is hugely popularised now, but actually Stephen Covey, in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, took Eisenhower’s words and used them to develop the tool.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

The Eisenhower matrix is just a 2×2 box, with the X-axis going from non-urgent to urgent and the Y-axis going from not important to important.

Therefore, there are 4 quadrants:

  • Important and Urgent
  • Important and Not Urgent
  • Not Important and Urgent
  • Not Important and Not Urgent

Your first task is to go through your to-do list and place them in each quadrant accordingly. This task is not even easy in itself.

But if you’re struggling with this part too, then it means you probably need to go back and look at your business strategy to understand what your goals are.

Is each task helping you achieve your goals? If so, then it will most likely be considered to be important. If not, it should be in the bottom half of the matrix.

How to use the quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix

Your tasks should now be in one of the four quadrants.

Let’s discuss each quadrant to explain how you should be using them.

Quadrant 1: Do

These are the tasks in the Important and Urgent category. That means they should be done immediately.

No procrastinating – these are both important and urgent, so they all need to be on the top of the to-do list.

Quadrant 2: Schedule

These tasks are important, but they’re not that urgent. They are usually tasks that are part of your long-term goals.

This is probably where you want to spend most of your deep work time as they are very important, but they need more time on them and more focus.

You can schedule these tasks for later – after those in quadrant 1, but make sure they’re still scheduled in and not continually bumped down the to-do list.

Quadrant 3: Delegate

This is probably the most dangerous category, because these tasks are still due urgently, but they are not part of your long-term goals and so these can be time and energy drainers.

They often don’t require your specific skill set to complete them, so you can delegate these tasks to other members of your team.

If there are lots in this category that people in your team can’t handle, then it may be sensible to hire a freelancer to do so.

Quadrant 4: Delete

It almost seems silly to have this category – if something is not urgent, nor is it important, why is it on our to-do list?!

That’s a very good question, but sometimes tasks do end up there.

We need to be very disciplined and make sure these are deleted.

Summary

The Eisenhower Matrix is an excellent tool that not only helps with your productivity, but let’s you not lose sight of your long-term goals. Remember to spend more time in the top half of the matrix and review these tasks weekly, especially if you’re in a fast-paced company.