“Who can define for us with accuracy the difference between the long and short term! Especially whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Being the President of the United States of America puts the incumbent in a position where they have to take some of the toughest decisions in the world. The 34th US president, Dwight D. Eisenhower had served as a US army general and was even the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. As US President, he headed the construction of the famous Interstate Highway System, established NASA, and supervised the integration of Alaska and Hawaii into the US.
Increasing Productivity Using the Eisenhower Method
As he went on to take one landmark decision after another, Eisenhower realized that there is often a lack of clarity about which tasks need to be focussed upon. Consequently, he devised a highly effective system for boosting his productivity. This process subsequently came to be known as The Eisenhower Matrix or Eisenhower Method.
The Eisenhower Matrix prioritizes tasks according to their urgency. By using this technique, you can figure out which tasks are important for you and which tasks can be completely neglected. Eisenhower had created the matrix to categorize all tasks into four quadrants depending on the urgency with which they need to be attended to.
Let’s take a look at these four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix and understand how they help us become more productive:
Do the task immediately
‘Do’ is the first quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix. The most important tasks we need to undertake belong to this category. These are tasks that can’t be delayed—the deadline for these is right around the corner.
For instance, you might need to submit your college admission form immediately as admissions are closing and any delay could result in you missing out on the college year.
Or you may need to submit your online application for a highly sought-after job in a reputed company by a certain date. Any delay could result in your application not being considered by the company.
To decide which tasks come under this category, you need to analyze your priorities and work out where the task stands on the list of priorities. If you find that the task needs to be done within the next 24 hours, then it belongs to the ‘Do’ quadrant.
Decide when to do the task
The second quadrant of the Eisenhower Method is ‘Decide’. This will be populated by the tasks that are important to us but don’t necessarily make the top of our to-do list.
For instance, you know it’s time to schedule your annual health check-up. Since health is very important, the check-up has to be a priority, but it can be scheduled for tomorrow, the day after or the coming week.
All such tasks which are important but not urgent can be placed in this category.
Delegate the task
The next quadrant of this Matrix is ‘Delegate’. This category comprises tasks that you need to deal with urgently but ones that are not important for you to do personally. Since your own time is of utmost importance, it is better to delegate these tasks to subordinates or outsource them to someone familiar with such tasks.
For instance, there is a need to pick up a relative from the airport but you are very busy at work. The pick-up might not be professionally important to you but it still needs to be done at a certain time. Therefore, it is the sort of thing you can quite conveniently put into the ‘delegate’ quadrant.
Delete the task
The fourth quadrant of the Eisenhower Method is ‘Delete’.’ There are so many tasks that we spend time on but a closer look reveals that they are neither urgent nor important.
For instance, our habit of constantly checking our phones for social media updates and chat messages adversely impacts our productivity.
Analyzing how much time you spend on these tasks and comparing it with the real value you derive from them will lead you to conclude that the best way to deal with them is by eliminating them from your routine.
The learning and development experts at Harappa Education understand the importance of the Eisenhower Matrix. Harappa’s comprehensive course Practicing Excellence has a section on the Eisenhower Matrix. This course is aimed at boosting your productivity by helping you understand the importance of the Eisenhower Matrix, and enabling you to use this time-tested technique in your daily life.
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