I wanted to share a tool that has been around a long time and that I have used for several years with great success with my coaching clients. I have always called it the Urgent vs. Important Grid. Today I learned it is called the Eisenhower Method as it was coined by President Eisenhower as his method for prioritization. Frequently, in our hurried lifestyle, we convince ourselves that everything has to be done right away. This is rarely the case. Eisenhower developed his matrix separating tasks into urgent and important in order to help him prioritize.
The designated quadrants are as follows:
- Important/Urgent quadrant are done immediately and personally (e.g. crises, deadlines, problems).
- Important/Not Urgent quadrant get an end date and are done personally (e.g. relationships, planning, recreation).
- Unimportant/Urgent quadrant are delegated (e.g. interruptions, meetings, activities).
- Unimportant/Not Urgent quadrant are dropped (e.g. time wasters, pleasant activities, trivia).
The exercise becomes deciding where to place each task. As much as we would like to think it is possible, not everything can go into the Important/Urgent quadrant. In fact, regardless of the time-frame, a healthy prioritization of tasks would have an equal number in each quadrant. It is possible to create a matrix for a specific project, the weekend, or for the next 6-months.
The matrix is fluid. Once a task is complete a task from a different quadrant can be move up. If urgency increases quickly a task may leap over other tasks. A burst pipe in the kitchen or a sick child jump into the Important/Urgent grid unexpectedly.
There is a benefit of taking pressure off by designating some tasks as Important/Not Urgent and Urgent/Not Important instead of everything being Important/Urgent.
I use this matrix as a spreadsheet on my desktop that gets updated daily. I have seen it used on sheet paper or flip-charts or dry-erase boards. For some reason, being able to move post-it notes from one quadrant to the next, or off the matrix completely, is very satisfying.
So how to decide? How do you determine which task goes where? The process is a reflection of your priorities and values. It is critical that some tasks require help. It is also critical that important tasks not be neglected. If a task sits in the Not Important/Not Urgent quadrant for too long, maybe it needs to be dropped entirely from the list. If the Urgent/Important quadrant has tasks there needs to be a very good reason to work on something else.
So make your own matrix. Test it out and see how it works. Pay attention to what variables you use to decide. Hopefully this tool allows for more effective, efficient, lower-stress decision making and prioritization. I have found it to be a very useful tool. Be sure to post questions and comments. I am curious to hear how it goes! – www.rhoadscoaching.com
*There are dozens of different styles of this matrix on the web. This example was created by Kelly Ohaver in 2015
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