Personally, I'm well-organised and not necessarily a timewaster; I set goals each week and accomplish them in smaller chunks. However, after living through four lockdowns, I found my usual time management and goal-setting routine collapsing as professional work became intertwined with cooking, laundry, and home-schooling. Although my number of goals for the day hadn’t increased, it felt like each task took more effort, and without my usual work routine, it was easy to get distracted and procrastinate. I felt stuck, exhausted, and overburdened, and knew I needed to find a more efficient way to tackle my day.
When I scoured Google for ways to be more productive, I came across the Eisenhower Matrix. The concept was created by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the thirty-fourth President of the United States (1953–1961) who also served as a US army general, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War, and the first Supreme Commander of NATO. These positions all required Eisenhower to make critical decisions constantly, leading him to create his famous method of prioritising.
The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Principle, involves organising your tasks into four quadrants. On one axis, you decide whether the task is urgent (that is, if you need to complete it soon), and on the other, you decide whether the task is important (that is, whether it fits in with your overall life goals). Each quadrant has a different work strategy for when and how you’ll get the task done.
The first quadrant, ‘Do First’, shows the tasks that are both urgent and important. They could be personal tasks, like paying an overdue bill or making a doctor’s appointment, or part of your professional work, like following up with a client or viewing a legal document. Tasks in this quadrant should be done today.
The second quadrant, ‘Schedule’, consists of tasks that are important but not urgent. This may include an important meeting, reviewing a concept, or even organising a long-planned social activity. By scheduling these tasks for a later date, you can reduce the stress of worrying about them while completing your more urgent tasks.
The third quadrant, ‘Delegate’, is for tasks that are urgent, but not important to you personally, such as something that is a favour for a colleague. You can delegate a task by recommending someone else who might know the work better or by providing enough information for your colleague to do the task themselves. When you delegate, it’s important to follow up on the progress of the task through email, a phone call, or a meeting to ensure it’s done well.
The fourth and last quadrant, ‘Don’t Do’, are the tasks that are not important and not urgent, which you shouldn’t waste time on. In my case, browsing through social media and doing domestic chores that were less important than my professional work were significant time-wasters that sabotaged my usual productivity. Putting these things in the ‘Don’t Do’ category didn’t necessarily mean I didn’t do them at all, but identifying these habits as time-wasters certainly made it easier to stop doing them during professional work hours and ultimately made me more efficient.
There's no doubt about it, the Eisenhower Matrix is a straightforward and very easy method of planning, managing time, and tracking tasks. It also has the advantage of allowing me to measure the outcomes, cross off tasks, and review how I have used my day when it's over.
The Eisenhower Matrix was such a success during lockdown that I've kept using it since returning to work, and as a result, my team is also more productive due to the stress-free work environment - win win!
Ultimately, the Eisenhower method is able to improve your focus and save you time by prioritising the most important tasks of your day. Click here for more details on the Eisenhower Matrix.
For added tips and tricks to improve your productivity, listen to my podcast, Habits Made Simple, with Dr. Paul Hermann.
Stay tuned for the rest of the month as Casper Magazine explores all sorts of time management tools, including next week’s breakdown of Time Chunking!
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