We often get confused between urgency and importance. Here are tips to ensure you achieve what is most important to you.
Sometimes we can get carried away by focusing our time on tasks that are urgent but not important, which essentially means that we're not making the most out of our time. But have no fear! The Eisenhower Matrix is here.
I know what you're thinking, what the h**** is an Eisenhower Matrix? Long story short, the Eisenhower Matrix is a time management classic that can help you identify your real priorities to ensure you achieve what is most important to you. It's another way of becoming more efficient at managing your time by prioritizing your initiatives. It also allows you to understand and differentiate between what is important and what is urgent.
So, how does it work? Well, it's pretty simple, you can start prioritizing by following these steps:
Take a piece of paper, and separate it into four quadrants and label them:
- Do First (Top left quadrant)
- Schedule(Top right quadrant)
- Delegate (Bottom left quadrant)
- Don't Do (Bottom right quadrant)
The next step is to fill each quadrant with all the activities, projects or tasks that you have to complete (basically anything that is time consuming).
- Do First
These activities are both of important and urgent nature. They are the ones that should be completed immediately.
It's impossible to predict the urgent & unexpected tasks that could mess up your schedule, the solution is to try to identify the activities you could have anticipated and program these similar activities beforehand.
These are the activities that are important but not urgent. Most of the time, these activities are unfortunately pushed back when emergencies occur.
It is important to plan and set deadlines to ensure their execution. Deadlines (even if they are your sole responsibility) help to prioritize these activities and avoid getting caught up in the whirlwind of other distractions. According to Claessens et al (2009), "managing your time and making important activities "urgent" in a certain way (by giving them deadlines to meet) are therefore factors of success to ensure their achievement".
Another way would be to give yourself a lot of time to complete these important activities otherwise they may become urgent, making your list of important & urgent things to do even longer.
These are the activities that are urgent but not important. For example, taking urgent calls or colleagues asking you for help at at work. These activities can prevent you from reaching your goals and as a result hinder your productivity.
To enhance your productivity, you should consider delegating them to someone else or rescheduling them to a period that's less hectic. Another solution would be to learn how to say no (politely) so that you can concentrate on your most important activities.
- Don't Do
These are the tasks that are non-urgent and not important. For example, sorting your emails, checking social media or browsing the web. They are to be avoided at all costs, unless they help you unwind. If surfing the internet allows you to relax and educate yourself, so much the better.
However, be aware of the time spent on these activities and make sure they do not take over your schedule. One thing you could do is combine activities of the same nature to optimize their achievement.⁂