Eisenhower Matrix And Why It Matters In Business

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).

Understanding the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. In that time, he championed the construction of the Interstate Highway System, ended the Korean War, created NASA, and welcomed Hawaii and Alaska to the union among other things.

Eisenhower was an industrious president who understood the fundamental difference between urgent and important tasks. Some three decades later, self-help author Stephen Covey repurposed Eisenhower’s insights in the form of a matrix.

The matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important. This is crucial in eliminating time-wasting tasks, which creates more time for tasks that drive a business forward.

The four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix divides tasks into four quadrants according to their urgency or importance (or lack thereof):

  1. Do it (Urgent/Important) – these tasks receive the highest priority because they are both urgent and important. These are typically same-day tasks or tasks with an impending deadline. Efficient businesses make sure that wherever possible, urgent and important tasks are completed first thing in the morning.
  2. Schedule it (Not urgent/Important) – in the second quadrant are important tasks that are not urgent. This quadrant encompasses countless tasks such as responding to emails, scheduling appointments, advertising, and recruitment. Given that these tasks are important, they are commonly associated with long term goals that aid in growth. Businesses should set time aside to complete these tasks , otherwise they run the risk of being overwhelmed as “Schedule it” tasks become “Do it” tasks. 
  3. Delegate it (Urgent/Not important) – tasks in this quadrant require immediate attention, but their lack of importance means that delegation is appropriate. Delegation often involves subordinates but in some cases, a business may opt to delegate large aspects of its operations to another company. Uploading blog posts and some email correspondence or customer service falls into this quadrant.
  4. Delete it (Not urgent/Not important) – these are invariably time-wasting activities that must be avoided. In the workplace, these tasks are often associated with procrastination – such as excessive social media usage, email inbox sorting and desk reorganization.

Eisenhower Matrix best practices

While a business will never be able to completely avoid time-wasting activities, there are a few tips to help them stay focused on tasks in the first two quadrants.

To-do lists containing tasks that are both urgent and important help businesses focus on high-impact activities. Completing tasks from the “Do it” and “Schedule it” quadrant gives an organization energy and momentum for the remainder of the workweek.

Some have also found it useful to set a limit on the number of tasks that can be scheduled for each quadrant. Other individuals work well with the Pomodoro technique, where 25-minute intervals are spent on high-priority tasks until they are completed. 

Key takeaways

  • The Eisenhower Matrix is a time management tool that helps businesses prioritize the completion of high impact tasks.
  • The Eisenhower Matrix segregates tasks according to four quadrants with varying degrees of urgency and importance.
  • In quantifying the completion of high-impact tasks, the Eisenhower Matrix discourages time-wasting tasks that are often the result of procrastination or a lack of delegation.

Connected strategic frameworks and matrix

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces

Growth-Share Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Root Cause Analysis

The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.

NOISE Analysis

A NOISE analysis is a strategic planning tool that is a useful alternative to the SWOT analysis. Conversely, the NOISE analysis allows decision-makers to analyze the current state of the business and create a strategic improvement plan. It incorporates solution-focused language that helps teams build upon their knowledge and goals and overcome identified obstacles.

SCOC Analysis

The SCOC analysis is an asset-based strategic planning tool focusing on the core strengths of a business, building upon what it claims to be the shortcomings of a traditional SWOT analysis. Indeed, the SCOC analysis claims that the SWOT analysis focuses on threats that might never materialize, thus underweighting potential opportunities.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

RASCI Matrix

A RASCI matrix is used to assign and then display the various roles and responsibilities in a project, service, or process. It is sometimes called a RASCI Responsibility Matrix. The RASCI matrix is essentially a project management tool that provides important clarification for organizations involved in complex projects.

Value/Effort Matrix

The value/effort matrix is a feature prioritization model used to build effective product roadmaps. The value/effort matrix allows product managers to prioritize their product backlog using a confident, structured approach. The product team learns how to plan an effective roadmap, identify boundaries of work, and differentiate between needs and wants.

Value/Risk Matrix

The value/risk matrix is a tool used to assess the complexity of a category of goods or services based on value and risk. The value/risk matrix is a relatively simple 2×2 matrix, with risk on the x-axis and value on the y-axis. Each of the four quadrants should be partitioned according to the designated scoring system. If each factor is ranked out of 100 for value and risk, then a low-risk initiative will score between 0 and 50 and a high-risk initiative between 50 and 100. Businesses that need more flexibility or precision may choose to use a 3×3 matrix with low, medium, and high designations.

Action Priority Matrix

An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.

GE McKinsey Matrix

The GE McKinsey Matrix was developed in the 1970s after General Electric asked its consultant McKinsey to develop a portfolio management model. This matrix is a strategy tool that provides guidance on how a corporation should prioritize its investments among its business units, leading to three possible scenarios: invest, protect, harvest, and divest.

Revenue Streams Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA Revenue Streams Matrix, revenue streams are classified according to the kind of interactions the business has with its key customers. The first dimension is the “Frequency” of interaction with the key customer. As the second dimension, there is the “Ownership” of the interaction with the key customer.

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"