How To Deal With Urgent VS Important Work Using The Eisenhower Box Matrix

urgent vs important

When it comes to time management, how we deal with our day-to-day task is the key to being productive. Everyone has 24 hours a day, and it is how we use the time that truly counts. Productive people understand that every task is not created equal, therefore, to be productive; we must identify the tasks that will give us the most result and act on them first. This is how the Eisenhower Box method comes into rescue.

If you are feeling like rushing against time and you are busy all the time, probably you should look into how you manage your tasks, not your time.

No matter who you are, a doctor or a janitor, you and I both have 24 hours a day. Thus, it is not really about so much about time management, but instead, being productive is about doing the right work that will give you the most result.

Why do you think extraordinary people set up companies, teams, and they build networks with others? So that they can leverage on other people’s time and get more things done.

There’s only so much we can do in a day. And what we choose to do each day has become the activity that will determine the result we get.

It Is Not About How Busy You Are, But How Effective You Are

You can work 18 hours a day and sleep for only 6 hours; you can be extremely busy but that does not means that you will be productive.

Working hard and pouring tons and tons of effort will not guarantee your success. They can only give you the result faster.

Try to run West to chase the sunrise, you will never going to accomplish it no matter how hard or how fast you run. It is not about working hard or how busy you are, it is about how effective you can be.

Think about it, there are people who are working 18 hours a day and are finding it hard to earn a living to survive. On the other hand, there are people who work just 8 hours a week, but they are earning 6 figures, 7 figures and some even more than that.

I just want to point out to you that it is not how much time you spend on your tasks that matters. What truly gives you the result you want is doing the right task and leveraging on other people’s time and energy.

Of course, in this post, we will focus on how to be productive and effective by doing the right task.

When you do the right task that gives you the most result each day, you will accumulate and achieve tremendous success after a year.

Conversely, if you choose to work on menial tasks that are not contributing to your success, you find yourself getting busy every day, but you are not getting anywhere.

The Pareto 80/20 Rule

I believe that you have heard about the Pareto 80/20 Principle before. Almost everyone knows this principle, but the problem is that are you leveraging on this principle or do you just learn and then never apply it?

The Pareto Principle is a powerful strategy that can make you productive and effective at work and in life.

Do the 20% work that will give you 80% results. Focus on 20% clients that give you 80% profits. And spend your time on 20% tasks that give you 80% results.

Sadly, most people never apply this technique into their work and life. They choose to handle whatever work that comes to them. They are being reactive instead of being active.

They never prioritize and they never follow the rule. This is why most people are feeling stuck and are getting nowhere.

They feel that they have been working hard but they are not getting the results that they desire.

Thus, today we are going discuss and talk about another method that can help you be effective in getting your work done and produce the most results.

Introducing The Einsenhower Box Method

I first came across the Einsenhower Box method from reading the famous best-selling book, 7 Highly Effective Habits Of Successful People authored by Stephen Covey.

It is a great book and regarded as one of the best books in time management and the success field. It was first published on 1989, but the principles are evergreen and timeless.

I will find myself learning new insights from rereading the book even after so many years.

If you don’t have this book in your personal library, get it now from Amazon.

However, in Stephen Covey’s book, he did not refer to this method as the Eisenhower Box Method, he called it the time management matrix or quadrants. The fundamentals are the same.

When you first look at the box below, you will understand how this method works and how easy it is to use this technique.

eisenhower box matrix

If you think that you have fully understood how this method works and so you can just apply it to your tasks inside your head, don’t.

I suggest you to read through this article to the end and then apply this technique into your day-to-day tasks.

Quadrant 1 – The Important And Urgent Task

This first quadrant consists of tasks that are urgent and important. You will have to do them no matter what. Some of your day-to-day tasks fall under this category.

Things such as filing your taxes, appointments with your clients, writing content for your website, emailing potential prospects, and follow ups.

The tasks in this quadrant are urgent and important; hence, you must do them. Choose to do these tasks as early as possible.

Quadrant 2 – The Important But Not Urgent Task

The second quadrant fills with tasks that are important but not urgent. Meaning, things such as exercising, building relationships with your friends and family and reading to improve yourself; these are important, but not urgent.

You can skip your exercise sessions, it is important but not urgent. However, if you do this often enough, eventually, your health will suffer.

Do understand that quadrant 2 tasks are important, and you will want to spend your time here to develop yourself and to reach your goals.

Most of the tasks here are not urgent, however, it doesn’t mean that you can ignore them. The tasks that fall under this category will give you impact over the long-term.

Quadrant 3 – The Not Important But Urgent Task

This is the quadrant where most people spend their time in. They thought that the tasks in this category are important, but in fact, they are not.

These are tasks such as booking flights, answering emails, update your Facebook status, picking up calls when you are working, approving comments on your blog, checking analytics for your website and more.

Answering calls and replying emails may sound urgent and important, but they really are not. Unless they are the calls and the emails are really important, most of them are not urgent and not important.

Never let the quadrant 3 tasks distract your work flow. While you are working, focus on your work and try to not answering any call or email.

Quadrant 4 – The Not Important And Not Urgent Task

The final quadrant is where all the unimportant and not urgent tasks belong. These are the tasks where you want to delete as much as possible.

For example, watching television, play games, checking updates on social media, following news, listening to your favorite songs or TV programs; these are unimportant and not urgent tasks that you want to eliminate as much.

And when I said delete most of the tasks here, I’m not saying that you should ditch all of these tasks. Some of the tasks here are good to keep you refresh and replenish your energy.

They can be good fillers as breaks and refreshments in your everyday life. If you are awake for 18 hours a day and you work for full 18 hours, you will die from burnout. You will feel bored and your life will be out of balance.

Your productivity will suffer and you will become crazy. This is why quadrant 4 tasks can be useful. However, the key is to learn to manage them and never let these tasks overtake your time.

How To Deal With Urgent VS Important Work

So how can you use the Eisenhower box method to improve your productivity? Simple, just list down all your to-do tasks and then categorize them.

Here’s an example of the items in the to-do list and they are in random order:

– Send clothes for laundry
– Write an article for blog content
– Buy grocery
– Call to arrange an appointment with dentist
– Clean the house
– Write emails to invite potential partners for product promotion
– Watch Star Wars: Rogue One
– Read an article recommended by John
– Do a market and keyword research
– Buy breads for tomorrow’s breakfast

Alright, by implementing the Eisenhower box method, here’s how you can list your tasks:

Quadrant 1 – Important and urgent
– Write emails to invite potential partners for product promotion
– Do a market and keyword research

These are the urgent and important tasks that you want to handle yourself. And you want to do them as soon as possible.

Usually, they are tasks that will directly impact your life and work, and they comes with a deadline too.

Quadrant 2 – Important but not urgent
– Write an article for blog content
– Read an article recommended by John

These are tasks that are important, but without a clear deadline. You may want to schedule them for later. Thus, your action here is to decide and schedule these tasks for later.

Focus and do the urgent and important task first, and then only come to these quadrant 2 tasks.

Quadrant 3 – Not important but urgent
– Call to arrange an appointment with dentist
– Clean the house
– Send clothes for laundry
– Buy breads for tomorrow’s breakfast

Some of these tasks here may seem like important, but they are not. And this is where you want to delegate most of your tasks. You can ask someone to do it for you. For example, ask your children to send clothes for laundry or get someone to clean the house.

Quadrant 4 – Not important and not urgent
– Watch Star Wars: Rogue One
– Buy grocery

Finally, the quadrant 4 tasks are where you want to try to eliminate as much as possible. They can be a huge time-waster if you did not manage them properly.

Spend your time on the important tasks first. And then when you are free, only choose to spend time on the quadrant 4 tasks, such as watching Star Wars.

Applying The Eisenhower Box Method

The best way to implement this technique into your work and daily life is to write your tasks and then fill them into the box.

Don’t just think about tasks in your head. Write them down and look at the tasks. Sometimes, you will be amazed that some of the tasks where you think are urgent important, but when you fill them into the box, they fall into other category.

This method may not be the best task management technique, but it is a very useful strategy to organize and prioritize your tasks.

When you have no idea how to deal with urgent vs important work, use this method.

So what do you think about this Eisenhower box method? Are you using it? Do you find it effective? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

Cheers,
Shawn Lim

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