Today we’re going to talk about the Eisenhower Matrix. This is sometimes called the Important/Urgent matrix. This is a tool we can use to prioritize what we’re going to be working on.

How do you make it simple to decide what you should be working on? This is an age-old question.

President Eisenhower came up with a very simple method to help him with this. What he did was to ask himself two simple questions. Is it important? Is it urgent?

He plotted these into a two by two grid. That let him focus on achieving the important things in a timely manner.

The grid had importance on the left axis. The urgent and then not urgent are along the top. We’re going each of our tasks into the relevant quadrant.

Some examples,

  • you’ve got a sales proposal that you need for a meeting with a client next week. It’s important, and because it’s next week it’s urgent, so it goes into the Important and Urgent quadrant’
  • you’ve got to write a sales report for next month’s team meeting. This report is important but it’s not until next month, it’s not urgent. That will then go into Important and Not Urgent quadrant.
  • you need to renew your fishing license and it expires next week. You’ve now got to ask yourself, is that fishing license important. No, it’s not going to move you forward in your life. It’s nice as a bit of relaxation but it’s not going to move you forward. So in it’s Not Important. But because it expires next week it’s urgent. It goes into Not Important and Urgent.
  • For a final example, you want to check Facebook. You like checking your Facebook to see what your family and friends are up to. It’s not important and it’s not urgent. It goes into the Not Important and Not Urgent quadrant.

Importance very rarely changes. If something’s important it generally stays important. Occasionally something does come up which may change its importance but this is rare.

Urgency may change. If you’ve got something for next month it’s not urgent. But if it’s next week then its urgency does change. Daily, you should be looking at what’s in each of your quadrants and asking “have any of these changed?”

We’ve now got our grid ready to go. I give each of these quadrants a “zone”.

  • Important and Urgent – Do Now
  • Important and Not Urgent – Do Soon
  • Not Important and Urgent – Delegate where possible. Spend a small amount of time each day to process these (maybe 30 minutes)
  • Not Important and Not Urgent – Discard or Do Whenever.

Some of the Not Important and Not Urgent items can help you move forward. Games may still be useful to do, but do help you relax. Checking Facebook can be a nice thing to do in the evening, it lets you catch up with family and friends. These are not important, and if you skip one day it’s not going to kill anyone.

Whenever you’ve got 10 minutes of free time that’s when you could slot that one of the Not Important activities.

Always do Important tasks first. Remember importance very rarely changes. The urgency is something you need to keep an eye on. Try and check your tasks each day for changes in urgency.

An example. If you’ve got to prepare a sales report for next month, it’s not urgent. But if the meeting’s next week then it changes and it becomes an urgent item.

Using this Eisenhower Matrix lets you focus your time on what you need to do. You focus on the important and the urgent things. You then focus on the rest of the important things. Only then do you go and look at the non-important stuff.

Importance always trumps urgency.

I find this tool useful and I classify my tasks by importance and urgency. Every day I spend a little bit of time looking through the non-urgent tasks just in case some of them are now urgent.