The Eisenhower Matrix: A Simple Square to Help Tackle Your To-Do’s

Dealing with the Day to Day
When you sat down at your desk today, were you confident about the first task you’d tackle? Are you sure it was truly urgent, or important? Your to-do list is probably full of things you should do today — for your job, your boss, the kids, the house…but should you really?

Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important, and vice versa. Those two words have different meanings, especially in the Eisenhower Matrix.

  • Urgent tasks need to be done by the end of the day. They’re all about time and deadlines.
  • Important tasks put you a step closer to your goals. If you don’t accomplish these tasks, you can’t reach your goal.

Turn Your To-Do’s into Tah-Dah’s

Organize your tasks into four quadrants. If it’s urgent and important, do it today. If it’s not urgent or important, do it later or not at all.

Let’s take this sample to-do list and put the tasks into the matrix.

  • Edit report for boss
  • Answer routine employee questions
  • Buy snacks for soccer game
  • Prep for today’s staff meeting
  • Return call to child’s teacher
  • Work out goals for next year
  • Answer sales calls
  • Write two employee evaluations
  • Check hotels for family vacation
  • Review resumes for open position
  • Find that missing project file

Once your tasks are prioritized, start with the urgent tasks in Quadrant 1. In a perfect world, this list would be short, especially if you effectively manage Quadrant 2, where you should be spending most of your time. Every task here should be scheduled on your calendar, and as the fires are extinguished in Quadrant 1, you can take these on. The bottom quadrants don’t need your attention today, so ask someone else to help you, do them later, or don’t do them at all.

It’s tempting to start the workday sipping coffee and tackling the low-hanging fruit on your to-do list. Keep the coffee, but kick the habit that’s consuming valuable time. Take a few minutes to organize that time and put your energy where it’s most needed.

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