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Boost Productivity: The Eisenhower Matrix

June 8, 2022
Carynn Tey

Named for its creator, American President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Matrix is a quick, simple tool you can use to sort and prioritize your tasks. Keep that in mind as you use the matrix – it’s only supposed to help you organize your life.

It’s most effective when you feel like you have a lot of tasks that are vying for your attention and time.

How do I make an Eisenhower Matrix?

The matrix itself is very easy to set up with only 2 categories for consideration: urgency and importance.

This is what it looks like:

How do I use the Matrix?

Once you’ve categorized your tasks, the boxes they’ve landed in will determine what direction you should take. Let’s go over the categories together.

Important and Urgent (Do)

These tasks are the ones that are either the most crucial to you or the easiest to accomplish.

Anything you have to do that’s due within a day or two that has significant weight for you goes into this box. They’re probably pretty personal tasks but urgent work, appointments to meet, and emergencies are some likely items for this box.

The less obvious tasks that belong here are the ones that you should do just to get them done. Washing your dishes right after meals or breaking down your recycling are quick tasks that we tend to put off just because they’re menial.

These to-dos have a habit of piling up and then turning into convenient excuses to avoid other work later on.

Important but Not Urgent (Decide)

This is the space for big projects or long-term goals. You can either list them as the eventual plan and then work out the details in a separate space or break these goals down into steps that you can then accomplish one at a time directly from your matrix.

These are the tasks that are likely the most personally fulfilling to you. Otherwise, they’re likely tasks you can take a half-step on now but that you’ll finish later – like scheduling a doctor’s appointment.

Retirement plans, personal edification, cleaning your home or planning a vacation are all goals that would typically fall under this category.

There’s no sense of urgency to any of these tasks but what you place on them.

Unimportant but Urgent (Delegate)

This is anything you have to do, but honestly don’t give a sh*t about. This doesn’t mean the task itself is unimportant but that it’s probably something you shouldn’t personally do.

It might be because it’s simply not relevant to you, it might be because you hate it, or it might just be something that’s really not worth your time and energy – that means us, fellow control freaks.

The best thing to do with these tasks is to delegate them.

Menial labour like scheduling your social media posts, organizing your files, or responding to customer feedback are not necessarily unimportant tasks but they don’t need your direct input. Entrusting these items to someone else will free up valuable time and attention that you can then turn to a project that only you can do.

This means you’ll have to accept the outcome, even if it’s not done exactly the way you want it done. Think of it as a kind of trust fall.

If you haven’t got anyone else to throw work at, you’ll obviously have to buckle down and do the work yourself, but you can try other productivity boosters like automating your work if possible. Especially for online work, a lot of software can be manipulated and automated (like Excel).

Alternatively, you could try doing this sort of grunt work in batches. Commit yourself to the work for a chunk of time or on specific days and just pump out as much productivity as you can without burning out.

Unimportant and Not Urgent (Delete)

I think you know what you can do with the vast majority of items that fall into this list – chuck ‘em!

Your timewasters, distractions, maybe even some hobbies belong in this list. Scrolling through your Instagram feed, for example, can consume hours in the blink of an eye. Obsessively checking your email or text messages are also unproductive habits.

That isn’t to say that you should abandon all your personal interests, of course.

It’s just that keeping up with your favourite TV shows or social media personalities shouldn’t be on your radar until you’ve made progress on your must-dos. The items that land in the unimportant and not urgent category are most often immediately fulfilling, but don’t reap any long-term rewards.

You should do these things because they’re interesting and keep your spirits up, but don’t allow them to consume your day.

Simple, right? Sometimes an easy tool is the best tool for the task. Give it a go – sketch up a simple matrix and just start plotting your chores and you’ll see how effectively it can organize your thoughts.

If you’re a working parent give read our article on being productive while working at home with your kids. We’ve put together some practical tips to help you keep your head on straight.

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