What is Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a productivity tool that helps to sort tasks and spread them reasonably over time. The sort out is based on the principals of urgency and importance. When assigned to each task, those two factors place the task to the relevant quadrant of the matrix. After this routine is done, it’s enough to take a look at the matrix to visually estimate what you should start with.


Did you know? Eisenhower Matrix is equally called Eisenhower Box, The Eisenhower Method and Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

Suppose, you already have your to do list and it has more that you can complete over given time. The list is not sorted out and it looks as follows:

  1. Prepare Letter of Intent
  2. Sign non-disclosure Agreement
  3. Communication and Meetings with Customers
  4. Hire a new Project Manager
  5. Hold a team meeting
  6. Decide upon new policy statements
  7. Install test and QA servers and prerequisite software
  8. Identify the implementation team etc.

Clearly, it’s impossible to dedicate from this list what’s going on and what should be done in the first place, at the same time almost each task seems to be highly time-consuming. Unfortunately, the situation when all of the tasks on your today’s list need to be done yesterday is common. With the high level of responsibility, you cannot afford to simply flip a coin to decide what should go first.

Eisenhower matrix was invented exactly for this occasion. As it is clear from the naming, the method invention is attributed to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. With the extreme level of responsibility for each of his decision, this wise man knew how to keep cool. One of famous quotes that reveals a really cold-blooded attitude is said to belong to him and it states that what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. The thins is simply to know how to tell what’s truly urgent or important from what is neither important nor urgent.

How do I apply the method?

Consider putting all of the tasks from your list into the matrix quadrant:

Urgent Not Urgent
Not Important

In order to place each task to the quadrant that it really fits best, simply ask yourself two questions about this task:

  • Is it urgent?
  • Is it important?

Based on your own answer, yes or no, simply put the task where it should be. While doing this work you think about each task and not the whole list which makes your choice weighted and considered enough.

When this job is done, take a look at the matrix you got: the prospects you couldn’t see while looking at the list can now be seen at a glance.

We did it with our task list and here is what we got:

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Sign non-disclosure AgreementHire a new Project Manager Communication and Meetings with CustomersInstall test and QA servers and prerequisite software
Not Important Hold a team meetingDecide upon new policy statements Prepare Letter of IntentIdentify the implementation team

What do I do with tasks in each quadrant?

The higher part of the matrix is about what you are going to do in person: no one else can do it instead of you.

Important and Urgent

Do it right now and do it yourself. For example, if the house is on fire, this is highly urgent and important and the actions you take have to be quick and efficient. The tasks from this quadrant should go on the top of your list and need to be dealt with today.

Important and Not Urgent

You need to set the date for those tasks but they will be pushed for later. Tasks are personally done. It depends what you put here. Traditionally in the middle of the past century vacations as well as all your social life including relationships and family issues would go to this quadrant whilst nowadays we know that productivity depends on how you live and rest so definitely sleep and dates are not advised to be put here. On the contrary, typically planning is here.

The lower part of the matrix belongs to what you are not going to do, even if it sounds crazy at the first glance.

Not Important and Urgent

Delegate it. While you’re busy with the Important and Urgent tasks, Urgent tasks won’t wait anyways, even if they are less important than what you’re going to do personally. So find people to delegate those tasks to them. The simplest example: you need to paint walls at your new house but you won’t do it, you simply hire a couple of people to help you. Meetings? Find somebody else to hold them. Drop tasks that are not important in spite of their urgency here: those tasks are not a deadline, crisis or problem solving issues.

Not important and Not Urgent

This quadrant detects the garbage of your time-wasters. Forget about this. Some activities are not moving you to your goals. Some are imposed to you by people who don’t care, marketers first of all. Need to buy a latest gadget? Need to spend time reading online anecdotes? Probably not. Before starting this activity as yourself: is it urgent? Or important? If it’s clearly «no» in both cases, don’t waste your time.

How will it benefit me?

Eisenhower matrix helps to spend minimal time on planning by simply answering yes or no to two simple questions and then observing your list in a visual matrix. This is quick and simple, done automatically. At the same time, this prioritisation helps you to detect your priorities and the time wasters. If you used to have days when you were terribly busy but felt like done nothing by the end of the day, the matrix is meant to eliminate this sort of situations.

What tool you can use to apply the method?

Eisenhower matrix productivity tool for Outlook as one of the most commonly used office tools already exists and it is called TaskCracker. The add-in adds a new view to your Outlook where your existing tasks are represented in a form of an interactive matrix based on Eisenhower principals. You can move tasks around with drag and drop or touch and prioritise your day and your week quickly and efficiently. Get Free TaskCracker Trial.

  • dott

    Thanks for explaining.