The pot is boiling over!
Your phone is ringing. You get a Facebook notification. A meeting request. You need to be heading out to take your child to the doctor. Your car needs a service. Aaaaaargh!
Sound like a typical day? Do you feel like you are constantly trying to extinguish one fire after another, but they just don’t let up? You feel totally burnt-out by the end of the day, yet you can’t point to having accomplished anything significant.
Sound like you?
If it does, according to “Eisenhower’s Decision Principle”, you are probably confusing the urgent with the important.
Urgent tasks usually require your immediate attention. However, they also put you in a reactive mode, resulting in a negative, hurried and narrowly-focused mindset.
Important tasks allow us to be in a responsive mode, helping us to stay calm, rational and open to new opportunities. These tasks usually contribute to our long-term goals and values.
Use the following table to clearly distinguish your daily tasks according to their urgency and importance and you will be on your way to managing your time more effectively and being more productive!
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important Tasks
These tasks require our immediate attention, are usually short-term crises and problems that can’t be delayed. Think project deadline, job offer, flat tyre, kid in hospital, etc.
Tasks in this quadrant should be managed appropriately and if possible minimised to ensure that you are not constantly under high stress and pressure. With some forward planning, you could try get your work done earlier, to prevent the last-minute “deadline-fighter” mentality.
Quadrant 2: Important but Not Urgent Tasks
These tasks don’t have a pressing deadline; however, they are important as they contribute to your long-term goals and help improve your overall well-being. Think exercise, family time, home maintenance, creating a budget and savings plan, etc.
Ideally, you should try focus most of your time on Q2 activities, as they are tasks that will build you up the most. Even work duties can fall in this category if you plan ahead and ensure you’re always one step ahead of your deadlines.
Quadrant 3: Urgent but Not Important Tasks
These tasks are usually unnecessary distractions and interruptions that don’t help us fulfil our daily goals. Think phone calls, most emails, helping someone with a favour, a request from your boss to book a venue, etc.
Unfortunately, many people spend most of their time on Q3 tasks, while mistakenly thinking they are doing Q1 tasks. Just because these tasks usually feel important as you are helping someone out, and they’re also usually easy to do and may provide a sense of satisfaction, do not be fooled! Although these tasks may be important to others, they’re usually not important to you and you may end up being frustrated at the end of the day doing everyone else’s work without getting any of your own done. Try avoiding these tasks as much as possible.
Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important Tasks
The heading says it all: they’re not important and not urgent; things we would consider time wasters. Think scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, watching TV, mindlessly surfing the web, non-work-related chit-chat, etc.
If we honestly evaluated ourselves, we may find that we are spending a large amount of time engaging in such time-wasting activities. This doesn’t mean to say we should eliminate them entirely, as they do play a role in helping us destress and wind down after a long day. However, try to minimize these tasks to ensure you are doing things that matter most.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important” – Dwight Eisenhower