Discipline is a critical ingredient for productivity. Without discipline, we may struggle to stay focused, prioritise tasks, and accomplish our goals.
However, many people, in business and in life, find it difficult to develop the necessary discipline to be productive consistently. One effective method for improving discipline is the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix.
This powerful tool can help you prioritise tasks based on their urgency and importance, enabling you to make more disciplined choices about how you allocate their time and energy.
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple four-quadrant system that categorises tasks based on two criteria: urgency and importance.
Urgent tasks are those that require immediate attention, while important tasks are those that align with long-term goals and values.
By dividing tasks into the following four quadrants, the matrix helps individuals identify the most critical tasks to focus on first:
- Urgent and Important
- Urgent but Not Important
- Important but Not Urgent
- Not Urgent or Important
The Eisenhower Matrix is a powerful productivity tool that has been proven as extremely effective for people in all walks of life. By helping you prioritise and focus on what’s truly important, it can lead to a more disciplined and therefore, more productive way of working.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur managing a startup, or a busy professional juggling competing demands, the Eisenhower Matrix can help you stay on track and achieve your goals.
How to use the Eisenhower Matrix
In order to get the most out of the urgent/important matrix, it’s essential you know how to effectively sort your work or tasks into the four quadrants.
If used incorrectly, you won’t be able to get the most from yourself, or the matrix.
Returning to our two main criteria, urgent tasks require immediate attention and have a deadline, while important tasks are aligned with our goals and values and contribute to our long-term success.
Here are some examples of tasks that might fit into each quadrant:
Urgent and Important: Tasks in this quadrant require immediate attention and are critical to your success. Examples of tasks in this quadrant include:
- Attending an emergency meeting
- Submitting a report that’s due today
- Responding to a client’s urgent request
- Dealing with a crisis situation at work
Important but Not Urgent: Tasks in this quadrant are important for our long-term success but do not require immediate attention. Here are some examples:
- Planning and goal-setting
- Working on a long-term project
- Building and maintaining relationships with colleagues and clients
- Investing in personal and professional development
Urgent but Not Important: Tasks in this quadrant are urgent but do not contribute to your long-term goals or values. Examples of these tasks may be:
- Responding to non-urgent emails and messages
- Attending unimportant meetings
- Completing tasks for others that do not align with your goals
- Dealing with interruptions and distractions that prevent us from focusing on important tasks
Not Urgent and Not Important: Tasks in this quadrant do not require immediate attention and do not contribute to your long-term goals or values. Examples include:
- Scrolling through social media
- Watching TV or movies
- Engaging in gossip and other unproductive conversations
- Doing mindless tasks that do not add value to your work or personal life
By categorising tasks into the four quadrants of the matrix, we can focus on tasks that are important for our long-term success and delegate, eliminate, or reduce time spent on tasks that do not align with our goals or values. This can help us prioritise our time and energy, increase our productivity, and achieve greater success and fulfilment in our personal and professional lives.
Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
This way of working is so effective, it’s hardly surprising it features as one of the points in Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
Habit three of the seven is titled Put First Things First and, according to Covey, the most effective way to use the Eisenhower Matrix is to focus on the “Important but Not Urgent” quadrant. These are the pieces of work that align with your long-term goals and values but don’t necessarily require immediate attention.
Covey argues that these tasks are often neglected in favour of more urgent tasks that may not be as important in the long run. By prioritising important but not urgent tasks, individuals can work proactively toward their goals and avoid getting caught up in the cycle of reacting to urgent but ultimately unimportant things.
Oftentimes, the work in the “Important but Not Urgent” area are the long term, big picture pieces of work that get put on the back burner. However, these are really the ones that provide you with the opportunity to progress and grow. Whether that’s at a personal level, or for your business.
With that in mind, it’s important to carefully consider how you’re going to ensure you address this area of your quadrant. Think about carving out protected time in your diary, with the sole intention of addressing your non-urgent but important tasks. Even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, you can rest assured you’re progressing towards your long term goals.
Covey also emphasises the importance of setting clear goals and using the matrix to determine which tasks will help achieve those goals. By focusing on tasks that align with your goals and values, and delegating or eliminating tasks that don’t, you can maximise your output.
In order to do this, it’s vital you have a strong goal-setting process as the foundation, before you start using the matrix.
So, if you’re interested in making your use of time more efficient, and boosting your productivity levels, consider utilising the Eisenhower Matrix. With support from so many people around the world, and a feature in Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ it should definitely be something you consider adopting to improve efficiencies, but also to ensure you’re on track to achieving your long term goals.
If you’d like further support in reaching your business goals, get in touch with us here at Ascentis. Our team of experts are here to provide you with the tools you need to succeed.