The main principals of the Eisenhower Matrix method have been covered here. This time we are going to speak about the method implementation for one of the most used corporate productivity tools, MS Outlook.
Outlook Task Lists vs. Eisenhower Matrix
Outlook Tasks are presented as a task list which has a set of prioritization tools enough to mark important tasks and schedule deadlines for their completion. The quick to-do list of urgent tasks marked with a flag makes it possible to create an actionable daily agenda. The Outlook set of productivity tools makes it possible to pass from words (emails) to action.
At the same time, Eisenhower Matrix makes it possible to prioritize huge task lists and assign appropriate priority to each one, according to your goals. This prioritization routine can be completed efficiently and quickly due to the visuality of the method.
It’s not an option to write Outlook tasks down to Eisenhower matrix cell drawn on a paper: first of all, this would take time. A time management method that takes time itself to apply is at least worth nothing, if not a bad idea at all. Luckily, we live in the era when we have an application for almost anything, no surprise there is an Outlook add-in that makes it possible to use visual matrix for existing tasks.
Visual Outlook Tasks presentation is just another Outlook view you can switch to with the help of TaskCracker add-in once installed on your MS-powered device.
How to apply Eisenhower Matrix to Outlook Tasks
The basic TaskCracker functionality makes it possible to switch to Visual Matrix view within your Outlook Tasks and then drag and drop each task to the relevant Matrix quadrant with the help of a mouse or by touch for Microsoft Tab.
Shut down Outlook. Install TaskCracker the usual way with the installation wizard. It takes about 10 seconds. Reopen Outlook. You’ll see all of your existing tasks in a form of a Matrix. Each tasks occupies the relevant quadrant according to its existing deadline and priority status.
At this point you can already see where you’re overwhelmed by tasks, weight your missed deadlines and the current planning mistakes if there are any. Usually, the picture is never perfect due to the visibility we lack when scheduling tasks in list format which usually doesn’t let us see the whole picture.
TaskCracker matrix has more than four standard Eisenhower quadrants. What is it for?
Ideal Eisenhower quadrants would occupy Today and No Date along with vertical High and Medium quadrants. Yet this simplicity could bring confusion to your schedule as your Outlook tasks have 3 urgency statuses for tasks, as well as your weekly planning wouldn’t be reflected. TaskCracker makes it possible to take Eisenhower Matrix as the basis for your visual weekly planning. What would be your ideal algorithm for planning your tasks according to the Eisenhower Matrix using TaskCracker for Outlook?
Gaps in planning
Deal with overdue tasks according their urgency and importance. Typically, if you find them in the ‘Low’ priority quadrant, it’s an indication to their immediate removal from your schedule: if they haven’t been done before and they have low priority, they are supposingly what is called ‘not urgent and not important’ according to Eisenhower Matrix language.
Setting your priorities
Check your Today and Tomorrow agenda. If most of tasks are in High priority boxes, consider shifting them to lower priority quadrants or move them to later time by dropping them to ‘This week’ and ‘Next Week’. Ask your self each time: is this task urgent? and is it important? Your answers to this question will help you to find the right place for each task.
While you empty your Today box by the end of the day, you free space for ‘Tomorrow’ tasks which you’ll find in the Today section on the next day. Use the freed space for arranging ‘This week’ tasks in the emptied place.
The most productive quadrants
‘Not urgent and important’ is the place where your ideal productivity lies. This means that your Today and Tomorrow ‘medium’ importance tasks are the most productive ones. Don’t try to solve the puzzle by deciding where to put the task. Simply ask yourself the two questions about each task: is it urgent? important? And then drop the task into the right quadrant. This algorithm minimizes the time you spend for planning as you need to answer only two questions instead of deciding between the four quadrants.
Urgent and Important tasks that can’t be delayed are rarely numerous. Yet if you still find some of them in the today’s high priority box, start by completing them and then move to your high productivity quadrant tasks.
Task that prevent you from being productive are not urgent and not important. You find them in low importance quadrants all over your week. Consider delegating them. For instance, if cleaning your house is either urgent nor important when weighted against your overall goals, delegate this task to a hired professional and move forward to the next task. Some of tasks you put on the list can be ignored indeed.
Don’t forget to empty low importance overdue tasks if there are any.
As the result of this routing, guided by two simple questions regarding urgency and importance of each task, you get a list of tasks, prioritized according to your goals. When your planning is guided by your goals and not the rush and the tasks clutter you have before you, this can raise your productivity significantly.
Bask to list view or not?
After you complete your visual planning, you can switch back you the standard Outlook list view and start completing your tasks one after another, as usual. This time you have cleaner list, you have seen the whole prospective and you can forecast where this list will bring you by the end of the day or by the end of the week.
Hints and tips
Apply Inbox Zero method to your incoming emails. Answer the emails you can answer at once, delete unimportant emails and send important emails to tasks immediately. Keep your inbox empty and prioritize the newly coming tasks visually in the matrix. This can help you weight each incoming task immediately against other tasks on your schedule.
Download TaskCracker: to download TaskCracker from the official application website, follow this link
The Free trial is available for 30 days. After the trial ends, your Outlook tasks and priorities stay as they are at the moment of the trial period expiration.
Full version is priced $39.95 lifetime.