The practicality of the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix helps you decide and prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance. In fact, it is also referred to as the Urgent-Important Matrix.

If you find yourself fire-fighting throughout the day, then you should apply this concept to improve your productivity.

The matrix takes the name from Dwight Eisenhower, a five-star general in the US Army, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, President of Columbia University, and the 34th President of United States.
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Dwight Eisenhower
Here it is the matrix, which divides tasks into 4 simple categories:
© James Clear
Let’s clarify some meanings of the two main keywords:
  • Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately.
  • Important tasks are tasks that contribute to long-term goals.
The urgency of a task is mainly driven by deadlines whereas the importance of a task is change based on the impact or significant change it can have on your life. What you consider important can be different from what other people think.

#1: Urgent & Important

This quadrant of the matrix contains the highest priority tasks, the ones that need to be done now. Either because you could not have foreseen them or because you’ve left them until the last minute.

Try to have as few tasks as possible. If you spend too much time working on this kind of tasks, you are working solely as a trouble-shooter, and never finding time to work on longer-term plans.

If two or more tasks appear to be equally urgent, you might want to re-assess them with the help of other team members connected to the tasks.

#2: Not Urgent & Important

You should spend most of your time working on this kind of tasks. Those tasks allow you to work on something important and have the time to do it properly without rush and focusing on quality work in an efficient manner.

Probably are the most neglected tasks but the most crucial ones for success, this quadrant can include strategic thinking, deciding on goals or general direction and planning.

#3: Urgent & Not Important

You need to minimise these tasks, they are undermining your productivity, often they are mistaken to be important when most of the times are not.

Try always to question them, so if you can avoid these tasks do it by delegating them to another person.

#4: Not Urgent & Not Important

You want to reduce the trivial tasks in this quadrant.

This quadrant includes tasks that will prevent you to optimise your time management.

To reduce these activities and remove the temptation to go back to them, it helps to create a clear structure for your day by focusing on the tasks in quadrant 2.

Further Reading