Every once in a while I cover a basic Time Management / Lifehacking concept, just for reference purposes and to keep my mind sharp. In this post, I discuss the Eisenhower Matrix, the way to set priorities in a too demanding world.
Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you try to build something while being in college as well? Do you experience juggling different projects because you feel like you are always running behind? Always putting out the nearest fire, only to find more embers in the other corner? Cool, there are ways to combat that. Let’s explore the Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Sometimes quotes simply make sense. Eisenhower’s quote is the perfect example. We can explore this quote best by using an example, so let’s take the finals as an example. It is important to start studying early. Make the miles now, read the books now and you will thank yourself later. This is important. The only problem? It is not urgent at all. The finals are still months away and while would you start studying already? You have more important things to do right?
Well.. It may seem like this, but maybe these are only more urgent things to do. Like handing in that paper, which is not graded, but obligatory. Or like taking care of your laundry, or working at the side-job you are doing. No importance, but definitely urgent. This can be explained by a simple matrix, with only two columns and two rows to explain. Here it is.
Now what do you think would go in each box? Where do you think the paper for next week should go? Is it urgent? (Yes) Is it important? (Well, yes) So it goes in the ‘Important/Urgent’ box. Where do you think a Facebook invite will go? Is it important? No. Is it urgent? Probably. So in the ‘Non-important/Urgent’ box. Where do you think the busy work like checking email should go? Is it important? No. Is it urgent? No. So in the ‘Non-important/Non-Urgent’ box. This is the same box as where Candy Crush would go (level 819, come and get me!).
One box left. Where do you think a long-term project like your finals will go? Exactly. In the ‘Important/Non-Urgent’ box. The box where all the important stuff happens and the least exciting box, because it seems rather boring. For more examples look at this picture.
Now the ‘Important/Non-urgent’ box is a tough one. It is the most boring one (because you will not get any direct reward for completing a task in it, simply because of its long-term character), but it is the most important one. This box is the place where your personal growth happens. If you have a choice of what to do with your time, look at this box. Look at where you can work on for the long term.
Put the Eisenhower Matrix into practice
Now how should you go about this matrix? Should you fill in your to-do-list in here daily? I won’t recommend it. What I do recommend is a simply exercise. Print this matrix out, you can use my picture for it (download big PDF here). Print it out and fill it in for a week. Look at what you are doing during the day. Look at a current task: In which box does this fit? Try to group your tasks, your to-do’s in this matrix for a couple of days and you will get the hang of it.
Now after you did this, look at how you did. Are you working sufficiently in the ‘Important/Non-urgent’ box? If so, good for you. If not, improve this. By filling this matrix in you can also find where you can get the time to work more on long-term projects. I would suggest looking at the ‘Not-important/Urgent’ box and the ‘Not-important/Not-urgent’ box. Try to limit the activities in these boxes and try to focus on the Important tasks, which will never seem urgent, but will make you more awesome in the end.
As always (per last post), here is the Index Card for this post. Feel free to Pin it/Instagram it or Like it on Facebook. This is something everybody should know about.
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