Learn to Prioritize Using the Eisenhower Matrix

Whether you are a student, an employee or you are handling your own business, there are times when you are overwhelmed by simple and complex  tasks in our every day lives. Sometimes, it really gets so overwhelming that we do not know where to start anymore. You have to respond to the email but at the same time you are also rushing to finish a presentation. What do you do? What task do you prioritize? I have also struggled in choosing which tasks should I do first and which tasks can I put on hold. That is until I’ve tried using the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Einsehower Box is a decision matrix method/tool that will help us determine which tasks to prioritize using two categories – urgency and importance.

To learn this simple and easy method, just continue reading this post.

How to Use the Eisenhower Box?

Using this is simple. Whenever you have a task, you have to recognize whether that task is urgent or not and whether the task is important or not. Classifying tasks depends on your standards and what you deem as urgent or important. Personally, I classify tasks as urgent when the deadline is near. These are calls that you need to do before noon or reports that you need to submit within the day. These tasks are time-constrained. And then, I classify tasks as important when not finishing the task would result in serious consequences. Example of this may be a book report that will consist 10% of your overall grade or a powerpoint for tomorrow’s meeting with investors.

Basically, the Eisenhower Box helps in organizing your tasks into 4 categories based on urgency and importance. Eisenhower Box is a 2×2 matrix in which the columns are for urgency and the rows are for importance. So, the Eisenhower Box has quadrants. The principle is to place that particular task into the corresponding box and decide actions to be done based on the task’s placement in the Eisenhower Box.

To elaborate, here are the quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix:

QUADRANT 1: URGENT AND IMPORTANT

These are the tasks that you should prioritize. These are usually the tasks with a deadline hanging over your head and not finishing the task would affect your overall goal. So, you must do these tasks as soon as you can.

QUADRANT 2: NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTANT

These are the tasks that you must do such that being unable to accomplish the task/s would result to negative consequences on your long-term goals. However, these tasks are not time-constrained. Meaning, these tasks should be done but it can be done later on. Examples of these tasks are preparing for a presentation that is 2 weeks away or writing notes for future examinations. I would suggest that you find a way to remind yourself of these tasks by writing them in your planner or calendar or using your smartphones and set up a notification. The key word here is schedule.

QUADRANT 3: URGENT BUT NOT IMPORTANT

Like the tasks in Quadrant 1, tasks that belong here in Quadrant 3 is time-sensitive such that it must be done immediately. However, these tasks won’t really affect you much. So, these are the tasks that you assign to someone else if you have an assistant or people on your team or even study buddies. If you are doing tasks on your own, you should also do these tasks but not in the expense of tasks that would fall in Quadrant 1. If your Quadrant 1 tasks are done then it’s time to pay attention to these tasks.

QUADRANT 4: NOT URGENT AND NOT IMPORTANT

Okayy… so what do you do with tasks that are neither urgent nor important? Nothing. They aren’t really tasks so you don’t need to do it all. Example of these are binge-watching a new Netflix series or scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you can do this on your free time but if you have other tasks on your to-do-lists, just ignore what’s in this quadrant.

Related post: How to Become More Productive with the Pomodoro Technique?

How did the Eisenhower Box help me?

There are tons of times when I thought that I was being productive. I’ve cleaned up my desk. Yay! My email is tidy. Yay! I’ve started reading my lecture notes for a quiz two days away. Yay! And then suddenly I realized that I no longer have time to write a paper that is to be submitted the next day. My productivity was an illusion. I was accomplishing tasks… but not the right tasks. That is until I’ve learned about the Eisenhower Box. I was able to prioritize what I really needed to do. The illusion of being productive has become a reality.

What tools do you need for the Eisenhower Matrix?

The best part about this method is that any thing you can write on is okay to use. You can use just your scratch papers, even old receipts you just found on your desk will do! But, if you have white boards on display in your room, that will be best since you can easily see your Eisenhower Box and you can easily edit its contents. You can also use a blank paper and clip that into your clipboard. In short, any thing as long as you can write on it will do! No fancy items required.

However, to help you start and be more motivated to try out Eisenhower Matrix and help your, you can download a free Eisenhower Matrix Template. This template can be used on your mobile devices, tablets or you can print it. Download the template here.

Overall…

Using the Eisenhower Box is easy. It will help you decide which tasks to prioritize and which tasks to drop. The principle is not how much tasks are done but to allot your time to tasks that really needs to be done.


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