Being busy is not the same as being productive. You could spend hours putting out fires and end the day being no closer to reaching your goal. Most people waste time on tasks that don't get them closer to their goals.
The problem is poor prioritisation. People tend to prioritise time-sensitive tasks over other tasks and don't think about the impact on long-term goals.
When you focus too much on urgent tasks, you neglect the important ones. It's easy to get stuck in this reactionary cycle where you continuously burn, robbing yourself of the opportunity to work toward your plans. You can focus more energy and time on the most critical tasks by distinguishing between urgent and important tasks.
Now the question is how to do that. The Eisenhower Matrix is the answer. This productivity strategy can help you enhance your time management. And in a world where we all rush to keep up with our activities, it's a priceless skill.
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix is a strategy for organising tasks based on a priority scale. This strategy focuses on grouping tasks between importance and urgency, so you can effectively prioritise schedules.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, was the one who presented this technique. In a speech in 1954, he quoted a university president as saying, "I have two kinds of problems, urgent and important, urgent not important and important not urgent."
Later, Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, developing a time management tool called the Eisenhower Matrix, which became famous since then.
Matrix serves as a priority tool, not a scheduler. Here you'll find an explanation of the Eisenhower Matrix.
The elements of the Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix has several elements you need to understand if you want to use this strategy. Starting from the four types of quadrants and how to define important and urgent.
The four-time quadrants
Using the time management matrix, you will need to sort your to-do list into four quadrants. The four quadrants are as follows:
- Quadrant 1: urgent and important tasks
- Quadrant 2: important non-urgent tasks
- Quadrant 3: unimportant urgent tasks
- Quadrant 4: unimportant non-urgent tasks
Often people confuse these four quadrants, so they find it challenging to determine where a task should go. But we can't force someone's priorities because everyone is different.
Important vs. Urgent
To apply the matrix rules correctly, you must understand Eisenhower's definition of important and urgent. We are often faced with two choices. Urgent tasks are very time sensitive and attention-grabbing. This type of task is often stressful.
On the other hand, important tasks take time to analyse and plan. They are not time sensitive but sometimes hard to resolve. Important tasks are those that concern your life goals and values.
How often have you heard someone can't finish their work because of running out of time? If you just focus only on time-sensitive jobs, we won't see farther than what lies tomorrow.
How to place tasks in quadrants
Well, you've got a list of urgent and important things. Now is the time for you to place it in four quadrants.
Quadrant 1: Do it now!
These are jobs that have strict, very close deadlines. The characteristics of the work are:
- Emergency and urgent
- Deadlines are very close
- Last-minute obligations
For example, a physics test for a student and most other things will come secondary to it.
Quadrant 2: Work periodically or schedule it.
Jobs with long-term, non-urgent benefits. They are essential for your well-being but not critical so that you can work things out slowly. Characteristics:
- Long-term health goals
Quadrant 3: Delegate this task!
Including tasks that are urgent but not too important, so you can delegate them to people you trust. For example
- Minor issues that others can solve
- Family obligations such as grocery shopping, housework, etc.
Quadrant 4: Eliminate unnecessary and non-urgent items!
The final quadrant includes tasks that are not essential, but you can do this if you have free time. For example, vacations, spending time on games or watching movies.
How to weigh your priorities in the matrix?
Are you still hesitant and confused about weighing priorities? Try using this diagram to organise tasks in four quadrants:
Set your focus on applying the Eisenhower Matrix to WHAT instead of WHEN. Scheduling comes more smoothly once you know your priorities. Put your activities in the flowchart to make prioritising easier.
What makes this technique different from others?
Inboard lines, this method has nothing to do with learning new skills or having to change mindsets. The Eisenhower Matrix helps understand goals better, reduces unnecessary activities, and helps achieve dreams. That way, you can plan for a better future.
After using it a few times, you will feel a positive transformation. You will see your tasks completed one by one efficiently.
Eisenhower Matrix Example
Next, to give a clearer picture, here are some examples of applying the matrix. These scenarios come from several professions.
Product owner professionals can map their activities or tasks to be like this. Remember, this is just an example. You can modify it according to your needs.
Pros and Cons
We all know nothing is perfect in this world, as with the Eisenhower Matrix. The following are the advantages and disadvantages of this matrix:
- Facilitates re-evaluation of urgent and non-urgent tasks.
- It helps make decisions more quickly.
- It helps to consider the value of an activity.
- It teaches you a better self-awareness and enables you to practice self-analysis.
- You sort tasks based on urgency. Other cases are not considered, such as resources and complexity.
- You need to take the time to divide in the Eisenhower matrix.
- Too many tasks in each grid.
In a way, trying to manage time is an unavoidable part of life. Every day, there are more and more productivity hacks and productivity apps to assist you. Since we can't expand the time of day, then being smarter in time is the option.
Instead of cramming many activities into a day, try to prioritise the important ones. The Eisenhower Matrix is a great tool in this regard. While it may take some time to succeed, trying this strategy is a great stepping stone to upgrading to a better version of yourself.