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 four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix
- Eisenhower Matrix best practices
- Eisenhower matrix examples
- Key takeaways
- Connected strategic frameworks and matrix
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Eisenhower matrix examples
Now we will conclude this article on the Eisenhower matrix with example tasks and activities for each quadrant.
Tasks that require immediate attention usually relate to deadlines, emergencies, pressing issues, and last-minute obligations.
This may include:
- Addressing an urgent client request or customer complaint.
- Submitting a draft proposal.
- Responding to a job offer on LinkedIn.
- Attending to an equipment breakdown that has halted production.
- Last-minute study for an imminent exam or training course.
- Contacting a local plumber to fix a water leak in the basement.
- Conducting a mediation session with employees that have been harassed by others in the workplace.
- Dealing with a network outage that has caused point-of-sale (POS) systems to go offline.
- Responding to a public relations crisis after discovering that a product was contaminated or faulty.
Remember, tasks in this quadrant are beneficial though not immediately pressing. As a result, the benefits may take some time to be realized.
- Making a goal to increase one’s take-home salary to $90,000.
- Building a client base through professional networking.
- Planning for a long-term project such as starting a new business.
- Aiming to lose 10 kilograms over the next four months.
- Improving the quality of one’s relationship with their superiors, colleagues, or family.
- Conducting proactive maintenance of factory machinery to reduce the likelihood of future breakdowns.
- Any work that directly contributes to the organization’s goals and objectives.
- Any tasks or activities from the previous quadrant that have not yet been dealt with.
- Conducting employee training and education to have them accredited to work safely on a construction site.
The so-called “delegate” quadrant contains tasks that must be completed now but which do not impact long-term goals.
They also tend not to require particular skills or expertise and there is little personal attachment to the outcome.
- Uploading a series of blog posts promoting a new software release.
- Transcribing the notes of a meeting where one’s presence at the meeting is optional.
- Grocery shopping for the staff Christmas party on the weekend.
- Checking and responding to non-client emails multiple times per day.
- Fielding calls customer service and maintenance calls when one is from the marketing department.
- Compulsively acting on social media phone notifications.
- Scheduling the interview with a new intern due to start next week.
- Requests from colleagues that do not directly contribute to meeting one’s goals or finishing one’s daily task list.
Not urgent/Not important
These are some of the time-wasting, instant gratification activities where moderation is key:
- Watching the entire series of Squid Game in one hit.
- Mindlessly scrolling through social media or channel surfing without realizing it.
- Any form of procrastination such as searching for a new pair of sunglasses on Amazon instead of working.
- Attending a superfluous or unnecessary status meeting.
- Undertaking a refresher course that goes over the same material repeatedly.
- 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