“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” —Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States
Dwight D. Eisenhower arguably led one of the most productive careers. From being appointed U.S. Army chief of staff, the first Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the 34th president of the United States, it’s no wonder many people continue to study Eisenhower’s methods of time and task management.
I’m a huge fan of his simple strategy called the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as the “Urgent/Important Principle”). I cannot speak on behalf of others’ habits, but I’m personally guilty of allowing requests and assignments chronologically dictate my to-do list as they flow into my radar. Eisenhower’s tool helps me strategically think about how each action impacts my personal and professional goals. Therefore, I’m able to build time towards the things that matter the most to me.
The concept is straightforward, and results are extremely rewarding. All actions are separated into four quadrants:
- Urgent and Important (Immediate Tasks)
- Less Urgent and Important (Tasks for this Week)
- Urgent and Less Important (Ask for Help or Delegate)
- Less Urgent and Less Important (Schedule for a Later Time)
I like to keep a work-specific Eisenhower Matrix pinned on my cubicle wall and attach post-it notes throughout the day. Having a visible action plan creates the extra benefit of transparency. My manager and co-workers are free to make changes based on new developments, collaborative projects and their plans. We jokingly refer to it as my “war room.”
Overall, the Eisenhower Matrix isn’t a perfect method, but I find it helpful for making concrete decisions and eliminating wasteful actions. What are some of your favorite organizational tools?
- How to be More Productive and Eliminate Time Wasting Activities by Using the “Eisenhower Box”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Use the ‘Eisenhower Box’ to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive
- The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life
- The Eisenhower Method Time Management Book by D. Eisenhower
- The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
- First Things First by Stephen Covey
On President Dwight Eisenhower:
- At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends by Dwight D. Eisenhower
- The Eisenhower Diaries by Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
- The Age of Eisenhower by William I. Hitchcock