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The Eisenhower Matrix is a time-management framework, and for Predictable Success leaders, it is a powerful tool for distinguishing important and urgent tasks in order to focus on actionable items of highest priority in four segments.
With the Matrix, each of your daily tasks and projects is evaluated and based on two axes (important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent) and fall into one of these four boxes of the matrix:
- Urgent & Important tasks – to do first
- Not Urgent & Important tasks – decide to do later
- Urgent & Not Important tasks – ideally to be delegated to someone else
- Not Urgent & Not Important tasks/projects – to delete or remove from your plate
But creating an organized task list isn’t itself much of an achievement. The critical next step is to use it to ensure that your daily actions — the non-trivial tasks that you and your team do each and every day — lead to the goals you’re actually pursuing.
Action steps for using the Eisenhower Matrix to create your to-do list:
1. Align your Purpose.
In order to find where time should be best spent to meet your ultimate outcome, ask yourself:
- What is your ultimate goal and mission?
- What is your OMG (Overarching Medium-term Goal)?
- What are the core values that drive your vision?
These key questions set the basis of how you’ll structure your tasks into a strategy of the four categories that factor the way we organize tasks or projects in the matrix of urgent/important and support actionable steps. When you hit your OMG goals, you’re ultimately getting closer to the Mission, Vision, and Values which is shown in the Alignment Pyramid:
You may also learn more about the Alignment Pyramid in this brief training from the Predictable Success Leadership Center:
2) If you aren’t sure of your mission and vision, start by asking yourself who you are, and where you’re going
The mission directly impacts the company’s growth and presents an ideal vision for its future. Consider how your actions, your leadership, and your team’s attributes may affect future business success, growth and culture will impact the mission.
Adopting a clear vision is critical as it directs your business (and personal) planning and strategy. Especially in leadership, you’ll need the ability to foresee and express a possible future condition for an organization in order to meet the mission.
Unlike mission and vision which direct the path of where you or your company want to go, the core values are who and what you are. These values define the vision and create a reality towards the mission.
Throughout the next steps, you’ll ultimately construct a framework for success by using your mission, vision and values to bridge the gap to everyday actions by breaking each area down into goals for implementation.
Tip! Take important consideration on a personal level to fulfill your goals, not someone else’s. THEN, reflect on how the integrity of how your role contributes to the mission of your company so you can properly direct your efforts, as well as lead your team to do the same if applicable.
3. Start your list.
Start a list of tasks, big or small, that typically build your days. Time management is critical when outlining and prioritizing actionable tasks, so do not undervalue your OMG and where you are spending your time. Make sure all items make it to your list to avoid potential conflicts.
For this list, tag or classify urgent and important tasks and projects by reflecting on where you spend the most time, deadlines of specific projects, long-term decisions, undervalued tasks, and immediate tasks that may arise. These tasks are a priority for good reason as every action that you take you steps closer to the goal. Remember, unlike an overall mission, your Overarching Medium-Term Goal should be specific, concrete, and medium-term enough to enable the prioritization of your daily activities.
a) Construct the “do” quadrant.
Remember, these are priority tasks and are labeled as both urgent and important. Any tasks that require action for the same day, or within 1-2 days, will fall in this box. Keep the most impactful tasks at the top of the list and schedule to do these items first.
b) Identify tasks for the “decide” quadrant.
These items are labeled as important but not urgent tasks that you can schedule into your calendar at a later date—but weigh heavily on the overall, long-term goal. Approach this quadrant using tame-based metrics. The key to achieving these items is by setting aside time as a non-negotiable item. Get them into your schedule and dedicate yourself to making them happen. You can’t write a book in an hour, but you may be able to write the next chapter.
Tip! Be proactive in scheduling WITH deadlines in mind so they don’t make their way to the “do” box having both urgent and important labels.
c) Create the “delegate” quadrant.
Even though these tasks appear important, they require valuable time that should be spent on tasks in the “do” quadrant. These tasks are urgent but not important. The items included in this quadrant should be addressed on an output-based metric system. This is a common type of results method as fixing a leaky pipe at the office is more manageable than a pipe burst later on.
Be proactive in approaching these tasks with their deadlines/consequences in mind so they don’t make their way to the “do” box, or delegate these to other team members. These are items that weigh heavily in our day, but aren’t specifically a typical reoccurrence.
Don’t micromanage when delegating these tasks when delegating appropriately. You’ll only add more items to your to-do list. If you have a hard time passing off the entire project, consider delegating certain tasks that could be taken over by someone who has a specialized skill set for the job.
d) Write in the “delete” quadrant.
Identify and eliminate any tasks that leave you distracted from your goals. This is a simple concept, however, these actions steal more time than we realize. Evaluate your daily habits (in detail) to see if you are working against the clock, or with it.
e) Catapult your success.
Through strategy, you now have a framework for investing valuable time and effort by simply using your mission, vision, and core values to connect actions to goals.
If you become overwhelmed with the tasks or outline the Eisenhower Box quadrants, keep in mind that the important and urgent tasks will ultimately end up on your schedule without notice. And for any other projects or tasks, make sure that you anticipate, delegate, or schedule them—or simply learn to say no.
What about you? Will you add the Eisenhower Matrix to your toolbox for success?
To get started, join the FREE Predictable Success Leadership Center and download a BONUS worksheet for using the Matrix! Learn more here.