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Setting priorities with Eisenhower matrix

By January 10, 2018 No Comments

For all those who read ”7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey, the Eisenhower matrix can also be know under the name of ”Covey’s quadrants”. Regardless the name, it is about the same thing. Generally speaking, the purpose of this matrix is to establish what is urgent and important – both in your career and private life. The matrix can be effectively used by managers, freelancers or employees, provided that they are free to set themselves daily priorities.


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The name comes from the 34th president of the United States, the General Dwight Eisenhower. The idea is to take action and organize your tasks on the basis of the matrix that divides the actions into four types:


1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately)

To be efficient we cannot focus on the first quadrant, so ideally there should be nothing in this box. Here we will meet all the cases that should be already solved, but never were. For example: unpaid invoices. But urgent and important tasks are also – client meetings, invoices to be paid shortly, specific issues we need to solve the same day. So actually here you should put only real priorities that need to be done now, even at the cost of other tasks.


2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).

That should be actually the biggest box. If you need to prepare an offer for a customer, that will be important but usually not urgent. If you’d like to develop yourself in a specific area, you might want to take part in some training, but this also will not be an urgent case.
However, if you have said to the customer you will prepare the offer within 3 days, then after those three days the case will become very urgent and important. Same with your training – at the day of its beginning it will become the most important thing for you.


3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).

Those are that types of cases that you need to do, but they are not importnat from your perspective. For a team leader of remote team, such a thing might be e.g. some kind of a report to be done every day, which can be easily done by one of your subordinates. This is the type of task that you can simply delegate. Think about other ones that take you some time and don’t let you do your more important tasks.
This category also covers those cases, which require our immediate action, but don’t give us any benefits. For example some phone calls or meetings that you know will not bring any results. Such kind of situations should be avoided, as they are considered time-eaters.


4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

This is the category that, theoretically, contains the most time-eaters. Here you will put all the distractors like YouTube movies, scrolling down Facebook, watching TV, etc. On the other hand, however, everybody needs to calm down from time to time. Besides, we also have to take care of minor issues once in a while, because nobody will do them for us. For example, some kind of e-mails or documentation organizing. The important thing is not to let those activites dominate our working time.


Summing up

Thanks to the use of Eisenhower matrix, we can fogure out what we use the time in our work for. It should help us determine how to take care about appropriate proportions and whether we concentrate on what is really crucial in our everyday work.
If you are able to manage your time efficiently, you will probably have the most things put in the 2nd part. If you focus on constant ”fire extinguishing” or your normal day is filled with things that are not important even for you, it’s high time to think about reorganizing your duties.


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