One of the basic components in a managerial tool kit, to increase efficiency and achieve enhanced productivity, the Eisenhower Matrix is just more than that. Let’s have an idea about the Eisenhower Matrix first. The matrix is basically a tool that is useful in organizing tasks and assigning particular time to them for completion so that every task or activity can be completed on time, or even before time. The categorization of tasks organization is based on two factors:
These two factors lead to the formation of four quadrants i.e.:
- Not urgent
- Not Important
These four quadrants form the Eisenhower matrix, as follows:
The Eisenhower Matrix
After putting the tasks in these four quadrants, on the basis of their deadlines and importance, managers just need to have a look at matrix in order to have a quick and clear idea of what task to start right now and which one, later.
The Eisenhower Decision Making
We are now about to discuss how Eisenhower Matrix is more than an efficiency enhancer. The matrix is actually the basis of managerial decision making for ensuring smooth operations functioning and achieving maximum output in shortest possible time.
Let’s examine the difference between important and urgent so as to have a clear idea.
It implies that a task or an activity needs quick and immediate action. These tasks must be on topmost priority of the managers and they usually lead to reactive mode, where managers become defensive and adopt hurried approach in order to complete these tasks.
One drawback of it is that it sometimes puts the manager in a narrowly focused thinking or approach, and completing task just because of the fact that it is urgent, might hinder optimal outcome. Hence, even urgent tasks must be prioritized or determined before time.
Important tasks are those that are necessary in order to accomplish mission, objectives and organizational values. Sometimes, certain important tasks are also urgent, however, most of the time, they are not. The important tasks put the managers in responsive mode, leading them pursue rational and patient approach, which also results in new opportunities.
It is a quite clear difference, but majority of the managers frequently become a victim of the trap that considers all urgent tasks as important as well. This is something that has been in our history, since our ancestors tended to focus more the short term tasks and issues than those which are long term in nature.
Contemporary technologies of today like Text messaging, social media etc, which give us increasingly amount of information, have just heightened this profoundly penetrated mindset and strategy. Our stimulus-generating tech considers all information equally urgent and important. For example, D.C policy debates are given equal weight as important as Miley Cyrus’s Twerk gate.
Discussing the Eisenhower Matrix Quadrants
Quadrant 1: IMPORTANT & URGENT TASKS
This quadrant consists of the tasks that are both important and urgent. These tasks contribute to the accomplishment of organizational long term objectives and goals. The same is applied to the goals related to our personal life.
If we talk about the nature of tasks present under these quadrants, then usually these include:
Let’s have a look at some of the important and urgent tasks, so as to have a clear idea.
- Offer letter from an employee or those emails that need immediate respond or an action from your end
- Deadline of the term report
- Tax submission deadline
- Husband in an ICU of a hospital
- Car engine gets out of order
- Getting a call from your child’s school principal, asking you to meet in their office to talk about the kid’s midterm exams.
With some organization and advance planning, a lot of these tasks can be completed with enhanced efficiency and eradication of an outright. For instance, rather than waiting till the last day to start working on term report (converting it into urgent task), you could have scheduled your time so that you have had completed your report a week or few days before the deadline.
Similarly, rather than waiting for something in your home to get broken or out of order and require mending, you can adopt a schedule of maintenance on a regular basis.
While we would never be able to eliminate completely he important and urgent tasks, we can greatly decrease them by tacking them proactively and allocating more time in the second quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix.
Quadrant 2: NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTANT TASKS
The activities under this quadrant are usually revolved around building strong relationships, planning for objectives for future and keeping you on a continuous improvement.
Let’s have a look at some of the examples so as to have a better idea.
- Weekly planning
- Yearly or long term strategy making
- Physical workout
- Family time
- Reading life coaching books
- Taking a vocational training class
- Making a budget and expenditure list
- Home maintenance
As stated by Covey, people must spend most of their time on quadrant 2 tasks, since these are those that give long term success, accomplishment and happiness. Unluckily, there are some major challenges that keep people from allocating sufficient time and efforts in this quadrant’s tasks. These challenges are as follows:
- You are unaware of what is really important at this point of time
If you don’t exactly know what objectives and values are the most important for you, you would obviously won’t e able to know the things to spend time on in order to achieve your goals. If you are thinking that you are missing your life’s mission and you are not sure about your core values, then you need to be trained regarding developing your life plan and determining the core values to focus.
- Present Bias
As discussed earlier, we all possess an inclination towards emphasizing on whatever is more pressurizing at that span of time. Doing so is basically the default mode we all hold. If there is not any deadline clinging on our head, it is difficult for us to do that task since there is nothing motivating for us. Becoming free from this situation needs self discipline and strong will power, which are the traits people cultivate throughout their life, via constant learning and striving.
Since the activities in Q2 are not drawing our attention, these are typically kept on the backburner of our life and we keep on saying that we will do these things someday, once we do what is urgent for us. We even don’t determine what’s most important in our life, which obviously just perpetuates a cycle where we just take care of our most urgent tasks and activities in our list.
However, that someday doesn’t come and if you are waiting to compete the important task until your schedule gets free little, do know that it won’t. You will always be seeing as busy like before just like now. Keep in mind that life gets busier with time as you get older too. So, get rid of the “someday” concept, otherwise, you would end up with an old age as an excuse of it achieving your mission and objective.
Quadrant 3: NOT IMPORTANT AND URGENT TASKS
This quadrant of the matrix is based on the activities that need our urgent attention; however, these are not useful for achieving our objectives and mission. Most of the activities in this quadrant are interruptions from others and usually consist of helping them achieve their own objectives and priorities.
Let’s have some examples of Q3 tasks and activities in order to have a better idea.
- Making phone calls
- Text messages
- Majority of the emails you get
- Your colleague coming to your desk in your peak working hours, and asking for a favor
- Writing a recommendation letter for a former employee on his behalf, in view of his request. This is important to him but probably not for you.
- Your mother calling you for some help
- Making your child understand a math problem sums exercise
Quadrant 4: NOT IMPORTANT & URGENT TASKS
These are based on the activities that are neither important nor urgent. Sometimes, they are also called “dicking around” tasks. These tasks and activities are neither pressurizing nor help you attain your long term objectives and mission. Q4 activities are usually called distractions.
Let’s have some examples to have a better idea.
- Playing computer games
- Watching TV
- Generally surfing the web
- Using social media