There simply isn’t enough time to do everything you feel you ought to do. So how do you decide what to focus on? And how do you know these are good choices?
This is the inner dilemma that consumes us, daily (it consumes me, anyways). What feels urgent is not necessarily important, and what’s important is not necessarily urgent. Sometimes it is. And sometimes it appears to be, but isn’t.
And just to pile on a little more stress to distract you whatever you do choose to work on, you never really know how good your choices are...unless you have a system for categorizing them.
The matrix helps you categorize every task you have on your plate. To do this, naturally, you’ll need to keep a list of all these tasks.
This might seem like a lot of extra work to take on before you even get to the stuff that actually pays the bills. Frankly, it isn’t. This strategy requires a small, manageable investment of your time that pays big dividends in terms of productivity.
Keeping a list of to-do items is a simple matter in itself. It requires a sheet of paper (or a notebook) and a few minutes each day. Once you have your list roughed out, it takes a few seconds to add items as they come up (or as you suddenly remember them).
What’s more, the EM is a very simple, low-demand task that you can use to warm up for the work day and get into the swing of things. As soon as its done, you can proceed with clarity and confidence.
You’ll be focusing on the tasks that move you ahead, and your mind will be free and clear.
Each category of the matrix comes with a recommended action:
Non-Urgent + Non-Important = Delete
If it’s hard to let go of certain items you feel you simply must do, realize this: The items that fall here may have some importance, but you will simply never have time for them.
Get them off your plate now so you can free up some brain power. If they are truly important, they’ll re-emerge later when you’ve gotten more important things out of the way.
Urgent + Non-Important = Delegate
This is relevant even if you don’t have somebody to delegate to. You may come to the realization that hiring somebody --- in some capacity --- is more profitable than doing these tasks yourself.
Urgent + Important = Do Today
This is simple enough. You now know exactly what to do, and you can turn all of your brain power toward executing.
Non-Urgent + Important = Schedule
These are those big picture tasks that you never get to, that have less to do with paying the bills and more to do with growth...those things that you never get to because you’re busy slogging painfully through Non-Urgent/Non-Important or Urgent/Non-Important tasks with a distracted and uncertain mind.
The best part of the Eisenhower Matrix is its psychological benefits: focus, motivation and reduced stress. Once you establish what Non-Urgent but Important items are, you’ll find you have a constant reminder of why you should roll up your sleeves and get into your Deleting, Delegating and Doing. Because if you don’t get through all that, you’ll never get to the big picture items that really move you ahead to a better place.
Specific applications for the EM you can start right now
Manage your email
To apply the EM, you can sort your email into two folders: Urgent and Non-Urgent. Then, within those folders, you can sort everything into Important and Non-Important.
Schedule your weeks
You’ll need to maintain a list of to-do items to do this. At the beginning of the week, you sort them all into their respective categories. Voila, you know exactly how and when each item is going to get done.
This can be applied to your professional life as well as your personal life.
Manage customer relationships
The bottom line is that some sales are more valuable than others. So are some customers. At the same time, some customers are more high-maintenance. Are you seeing a worthwhile return for your efforts? Using the Eisenhoweer Matrix to prioritize which relationships to nurture, and how, will help you realize which customers are essential to your immediate and long term goals.
The EM is more than a logistical tool; it’s a psychological one. If you use it regularly, you’ll be more productive, see more personal and professional growth, and enjoy your work more. And the more you do it, the greater your returns will be.
Think of using the EM as a skill to be developed. You’ll become more efficient with it over time, and you’ll be able to apply it more effectively for greater results with less time invested.