Business Bites: Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix, first introduced by President Dwight Eisenhower, was a way to approach how we respond to urgency and importance. This 2x2 matrix is a tool all about prioritizing time and tasks. By segmenting things as important or not important as well as urgent and not urgent, we’re able to see what projects or tasks require our immediate focus now and which ones should be prioritized later. This is a simple yet effective exercise to help better understand how your time and tasks are fitting into your overall goals. Subscribe to this podcast so you never miss an episode!
Welcome to Business Bites. My name is Sara. This is the podcast for busy professionals who want the quick hits of business terminology, historical context, and strategies for integration. Today we'll be talking about the Eisenhower Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix was first brought into play by President Eisenhower in the United States as he was thinking about how we respond to and think about urgency and importance. It actually came up in one of his 1954 speeches. I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent. You may have heard of this specific framework and instead have attributed it to Stephen Covey in his book of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He repackaged the Eisenhower Matrix and built on it as a tool to prioritize time and tasks. Whether you've heard it as an Eisenhower Matrix or Covey's Matrix, it still has the same framework as we think about how to use it.
It's a two by two matrix where we're ranking things as important or not important, as well as urgent and not urgent. This tool has four quadrants, and as we think through each of these areas, each of them has a different approach for us to be able to work on it. Starting in the upper left quadrant, if something is important and it's urgent. This is something we need to do immediately. We need to prioritize it, and it is typically something that has clear deadlines and consequences if we don't take immediate action. For example, this could be finishing a client's project or responding to some urgent emails that we need to work on. Or perhaps submitting work to a peer or a colleague.
The next area I'd like to focus on is things that are important, but not urgent. These are things that we need to schedule and plan for. These are activities that have not a clear deadline but bring us closer to our goals overall. Perhaps it's relationship building, strategic planning, networking, or professional development. We don't necessarily know when we need the benefits of these specific things. For example, if you're thinking about relationship development with other people in other departments of your organization, or even networking, you don't know when you will use those relationships, but it's important to make time for it.
Let's next come to things that are urgent but not important. These are things that potentially we might need to delegate. For example, they don't need to be done by us per se, but they do need to be completed because there is some urgency around them. For example, there might be some scheduling things that we need to work on or perhaps responding to specific work or addressing people's issues as they come. Typically, things that are not important and urgent, we can also label them as interruptions. Again, they may not be important to us, but they could be important to the other person. So it's important to assess that when that person comes to us with a task, they're interrupting our workflow. Again, they view it as important or they wouldn't have come to us, but for us, it may not actually be important, and we need to think about how we're going to allocate our time.
The last quadrant are things that are not important and not urgent. This is the land of distractions. So these are things that can easily take time away from us but aren't supporting our goals in some way. Again, they are not important, not specifically tied to our specific goal and they're not urgent. They can be done at any time. For example, working through your junk folder or other areas. This again can be in an area where it's not necessarily important to our specific workflow and it's not urgent. There's no date or time set to it. This can be an area where we inadvertently or intentionally waste a lot of time. Again, we're not realizing that it's not having the impact that we'd like to.
When we are considering each of these different quadrants, it's important for us to be very clear about whose perspective are we centering. Again, urgency and importance are from our perspective, but other people play into that. Your boss comes to you with something that they're saying is urgent, you're going to need to act on it differently. Whereas if a peer or colleague says something is urgent, you're going to have to make that decision between things that are urgent and not urgent as well as important or not important. As you're working through this matrix, I encourage you to think about how you're going to best use your time. What are things that are urgent for you? What are things that are important for you? And as you look at the tasks that have happened or occurred over the past week or month, take the time to categorize and understand where has your time been going and have you been accomplishing the goals that you'd like to? This simple activity, this simple exercise of reflecting on the past week or the past day can help you better understand how your time and or tasks are fitting into your overall goals.
This has been Sara with Business Bites. And you can reach me at [email protected] We would love to hear from you and other terminology that you would like to hear bite-sized. As always, give us a quick rating on your platform of choice and share this podcast with a friend.
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