Connecting Actions to Goals With the Eisenhower Matrix

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Busy — but not productive? While “busywork” feels like you are taking steps towards your ultimate goal, without a strategy to prioritize time spent, you likely aren’t producing measurable results. Why? Because we often confuse what’s urgent and what’s important. When looking at the past year, what percentage of your time was busywork, make-work, maybe even good work, but not in alignment with the goals that you wanted to achieve? For decades, the Eisenhower Matrix has helped connect actions to goals with a simple concept spotlighting focus on what matters most, and alleviating this confusion.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

Derived from the 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Matrix is an effective decision-making tool for increasing productivity by determining top priorities and by eliminating the behaviors and habits that waste time, lead to burnout, and ultimately keep you from long-term goals. By doing fewer tasks, but those that were of the utmost impact and importance first, Eisenhower became famous for his military leadership and decision-making throughout his presidency and as supreme commander of the Allied forces in western Europe during World War II. This time-management framework, commonly known as the Eisenhower Box, was established with his core principle of distinguishing important and urgent tasks in order to focus on actionable items of highest priority in four segments. The concept was popularized by Dr. Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and became a solidified method of prioritizing tasks and time management, for all professions.
This and other leadership approaches are also covered by Predictable Success founder Les McKeown here:

Urgent vs Important Tasks on Your To-Do List

Distinguishing between urgent and important tasks is a critical step when connecting actions to goals as it’s easy to misinterpret which tasks help us, and which hinder us. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘merely’ urgent, and forget what it means to do something that is truly meaningful – something that genuinely changes lives (yours, or others, or best still, both). Even more so, stressors that stem from having “too much to do, and not enough time” significantly impact the mission — but also the demise of the overall outcome if not properly considered.

Urgent Tasks

Urgent tasks are tasks that require timely action, quick response, or have a rapid deadline. Although these items typically beg for immediate attention, we tend to spend an unavoidable amount of time on them to alleviate an undesired consequence. These tasks are usually at the top of your usual to-do list.

Important Tasks

Important tasks are those that have long-term consequences to our goals if action is not taken. However, these are also the tasks that get shuffled to the bottom of our usual to-do lists as they are not as time-sensitive, but ultimately, these tasks contribute the most impact on our mission. Labeling your day-to-day tasks with this in mind leads to the next layer of the matrix — the quadrants.

Understanding the Eisenhower Matrix Quadrants

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

The “Do” Quadrant

Tasks that are labeled “Important” & “Urgent” and demand immediate attention and should be tackled first.

Examples of Important and Urgent Tasks:

  • Family emergencies
  • Urgent “big” client call or request
  • Safety or quality issue
  • Tax deadlines
  • Crisis
  • Unprojected project deadlines
  • Medical appointments
  • Emails from your boss

The “Decide” Quadrant

Tasks that are labeled “Important” and “Not Urgent” and have a due date, but can be scheduled for completion at a later date.

Examples of Important and Not Urgent tasks:

  • Personal development
  • Family time
  • Business networking
  • Car maintenance
  • Marketing strategy
  • Budgeting
  • SEO optimization
  • Exercising

The “Delegate” Quadrant

Tasks that are labeled as “Not Important” and “Urgent” can be delegated to others if possible and are often a distraction from your day-to-day success. This can be also known as merely important because of their urgency.

Examples of Not Important but Urgent tasks:

  • Hiring issue
  • Unexpected texts or phone calls
  • Employee conflict
  • Leak in warehouse
  • Analyzing finances
  • Updating email lists
  • Unannounced family requests
  • Scheduling marketing automations

The “Delete” Quadrant

“Not Important” and “Not Urgent” tasks that you do not need to prioritize, and can be deleted from your to-do list, and day. These are often distractions from your mission.

Examples of Not Important and Not Urgent tasks:

  • Scrolling social media
  • Micromanaging your team
  • Daily meetings
  • Painting the office
  • Surfing the web
  • Browsing junk mail
  • Playing card games
  • Purchasing non-essential items

Why you should be using the Eisenhower Matrix to achieve your goals

As outlined, the Eisenhower Matrix has effectively one of the most popularized decision-making frameworks in business and personal endeavors. By reevaluating your time and focusing on the ladder of tasks suggested by this model, you’ll:
  • accomplish meaningful results efficiently
  • diminishing procrastination
  • scale your business
  • manage a successful team
  • spend time with the ones you love
  • prevent burnout
  • anticipate problems
  • reduce stress
  • rediscover your values
  • stay on track
  • bridge the gap between goals and actions!

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.

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