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Understanding the Eisenhower Matrix

By Edited May 3, 2014 0 0

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that was developed based upon the way General Dwight D. Eisenhower supposedly worked during war time. Whenever a task or question was presented to General Eisenhower he asked himself 2 questions:

  1. Is this task or question Urgent?
  2. Is this task or question Important?
Urgency obviously is related to how much time is available to act upon the task or question. Acting on incoming V2 missiles would be urgent for instance (although the V2 mainly posed a threat to the UK, instead of the USA).

Importance is related to how related the task or question was to the objectives at hand. If the objective at hand was an air raid on ammunition factories in Germany, a question about food supplies for troops in France was not important.

The Matrix

Eisenhower Matrix (17659)

By using these two simple questions, and the only possible anwers "Yes" and "No" as the only two possible answers to those questions, four possible situations arise. Those four situations can be plotted into a graph, with either question as one of the axes. This creates a matrix with four quadrants.

Quadrant 1 (Urgent and Important)

This is the quadrant where both questions are answered with Yes. The task at hand is both Urgent and Important, and as such is need to get the ultimate priority. This needs to be acted upon immediately!

Quadrant 2 (Not Urgent, but Important)

The task at hand is not Urgent (yet), but it is Important in relation to the objectives. This is the quadrant where you want to spend the most time in, because you're ahead of the game here. This is also called the preparation quadrant, or the quality quadrant.

Quadrant 3 (Urgent, but not Important)

Someone messed up here. Something got Urgent, but it's not Important in relation to the objectives at hand. The activities here need immediate attention, yet they do not contribute to the objectives. These are the activities that need to be delegated, they need immediate attention, but not YOUR attention.

Quadrant 4 (Neither Urgent or Important)

This is the quadrant of waste. The questions or tasks here needn't be attended to immediately, nor do they contribute to the objective at hand. The right strategy is to eliminate these. Ignore those at no risk at all.

Everyday time Management

This Eisenhower Matrix doesn't need a war to show its value. This is a tool that you can use in your everyday time management activities. One prerequisite is that you have a clear view of your objectives, because that's what you need to decide whether something is urgent or not. Urgency however is something we recognize very easily, without any training at all.

In short, you should try to eliminate quadrant 4 activities altogether, and maximize quadrant 2 activities. Reducing urgency is your life is a good objective, no matter what.
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