How the Eisenhower Principle helps you prioritize your tasks
Chapter 6 from the CHANGE JOURNAL »
I can’t say whether you would want to copy anything from the current President of the United States. However, one of his predecessors had an idea that’s still worth checking out – even if it’s from a field outside the political sphere.
Some historians still doubt that the principle named after Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. President, can be attributed to him. But whatever. It’s a fact that a particular tool has become quite famous under his moniker, known as “The Eisenhower Matrix.” It uniquely combines simplicity and efficiency. As a great supporter of simplicity myself, that’s the reason I am including this approach here. It’s about arranging upcoming tasks according to their urgency and relevance.
To do this, you only need to answer two simple questions:
- Is this task important?
- Is it urgent?
As you may have guessed, clearly defining and differentiating between the terms “urgent” and “important” is crucial. Important things are essential and unavoidable, like drinking enough water, eating and brushing your teeth, or improving your life in the long term (“Should I sign a building loan savings contract?”). The same applies to long-term professional or private goals. However, such basics can often be pursued later... while urgent activities require immediate action.
At least, that’s usually the case.
The catch is that these urgent tasks are predestined to be avoided. One tends to talk oneself out of them. Critical activities (such as a meeting that has been prescheduled one hour earlier or a bike that has a flat tire) are usually rather unpleasant: They are situations or tasks that pop up unexpectedly and cause stress since they are likely to ruin your original plans. Besides, they typically don’t even qualify as being “important”.
Postponing could be an option – but certainly not a very good one.
The Eisenhower Principle is the best strategy to promote peace among all your “important” and/or “urgent” tasks.
Everything in areas C and D might be relevant, but in area C, there are some tasks worth examining a little closer: What will happen if I do not do those? If the answer should be “nothing” or “very little”, you might drop those tasks. This goes for almost everything in field D. We have also included an excellent exercise to help you skip specific tasks so that there is more time for the important ones.