Somewhere along the way, my three worlds—personal, professional and organizational—became saturated with activity. More responsibility, more worthwhile tasks and more can’t-miss family moments mean that decisions about what to do and when to do it are more important than ever.
A productive life doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t stumble upon great personal choices, plans, priorities and goals. One of the most important lessons about personal productivity is that you have to spend intentional time planning your daily and weekly schedule.
U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said it this way:
I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.
That statement is at the heart of the Eisenhower Matrix, a method for making consistently good decisions about time and your agenda.
I set aside my first hour on Monday morning to plan and prioritize the coming week. It’s my planned weekly time to make decisions about important, unimportant, urgent and not urgent tasks.
Here’s how it works. In what is now called the Eisenhower Decision Principle, tasks are evaluated and sorted using important-unimportant and urgent-not urgent criteria. Those tasks are then placed in one of four quadrants in the Eisenhower Box or Matrix.
You may already do this intuitively, but consider placing daily and weekly tasks in the proper perspective. Sort important-unimportant and urgent-not urgent tasks to make good decisions about your schedule:
- Know what to DO now. What IMPORTANT/URGENT things should be done immediately and personally? This includes time-sensitive items that have a deadline or problems and crises needing immediate attention. These are things that require your personal attention or presence and can’t be done by anyone else.
- Know what to SCHEDULE later. What IMPORTANT/NOT URGENT things should be scheduled? This includes important tasks that may not have a target date or time limit. But since these things are still very important, you need to intentionally plug them in to your personal schedule. You might need to schedule things like strategic planning, relationships, goal setting or other significant tasks you can never seem to make time for.
- Know what to DELEGATE to someone else. What UNIMPORTANT/URGENT things should be delegated? This includes routine items that can be done by someone else. These things don’t require your presence and that makes them a prime candidate for delegation. Ask yourself the question: Who can do it for me? You might need to delegate tasks like routine administration, scheduling, meetings and activities. If it doesn’t require your personal touch, then delegate it.
- Know what to DELETE. What UNIMPORTANT/NOT URGENT things should be dropped? This includes everything we can live without in our personal, professional and organizational worlds. These are things that we can drop or eliminate from our routine to make room for more productive tasks. Examples include time wasters, low priority items, entertainment or anything else we can do without.
So what’s the Big Idea?
One of the most important lessons about personal productivity is that you have to spend intentional time planning your daily and weekly schedule. Know what to do now, what to schedule later, what to delegate to someone else and what to delete. Make better decisions with the Eisenhower Matrix.
- Eisenhower Matrix Examples
- Eisenhower Matrix Worksheet
- Transform Your Habits (e-book) by James Clear
- “How to be More Productive and Eliminate Time Wasting Activities by Using the Eisenhower Box” by James Clear
- Eisenhower iOS App
- My Effectiveness Habits Android App
- “Shift Gears from Good to Great” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- “4 Q&A Evaluation Strategies” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- “5 Reasons Why Short-Term Goals Matter” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
“Time Management,” Accessed April 23, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management.