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Productivity. Efficiency. Effectiveness. They’re all key ingredients to organisational success and – more often than not –  your career advancement. Simply look at modern job descriptions and you’ll see these ingredients highlighted.

But how do you achieve maximum productivity? Have you thought about online task management tools, designed to make life easier and maximise potential and outputs?

Dozens are on the market. A quick online search will reveal top tools. Your own organisation may already have some in place, in which case get training.

Many task management tools have specific aims, so a bit of research is in order.

This week’s expert article gives a high-level overview of the famous Eisenhower Matrix which distinguishes between urgent and important tasks. This is essential for efficient workflow.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

It’s a simple matrix of 4 quadrants named after Dwight Eisenhower who served as President of the United States for 2 terms. He was known for his sharp sense of productivity and effectiveness.

Here is one of Eisenhower’s famous quotes:

I have 2 kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.

Steven Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, loved the idea so much that he repackaged it and called it the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s also sometimes called the ‘Urgent-Important Matrix’ or the ‘Time Management Matrix’.

Why is such a matrix important?

It might be surprising but we tend to emphasise time-sensitive tasks over truly important ones. It’s no wonder we’re so busy and exhausted running from one deadline to the next. And it’s no wonder our long-term goals sit waiting for us to get to them.

The Eisenhower Matrix helps you overcome the pull toward urgent distractions and focus on what matters.

What are the 4 quadrants?

The Eisenhower Matrix prioritises tasks by urgency and importance, using these 4 quadrants:

  • Do (urgent/important) – these important and urgent tasks must be handled now. Be diligent and don’t get distracted by other items on your to-do list.
  • Schedule (important/not urgent) – these important but non-urgent tasks can be scheduled with firm dates.
  • Delegate (urgent/not important) – these urgent but not important tasks need to be completed now but by someone else, since they likely don’t require your skill set.
  • Delete (not urgent/not important) – these unimportant, non-urgent tasks might well just be deleted, mostly because they can be real timewasters.

Colour code your tasks

Part of the thinking behind the Eisenhower Matrix is staying on track through a glance, by assigning colours to your tasks based on the level of priority. The colour scheme is up to you.

To summarise

Evaluate your tasks by quadrant.

Quadrant 1 Important and urgent

Make a list of these tasks and develop a plan to complete these items first.

Quadrant 2 Important and not urgent

Assign a realistic date for these tasks and the steps involved in each.

Quadrant 3 Unimportant and urgent

Be ruthless about delegating as many of these tasks as possible. Assign to others with deadlines and/or share components with others.

Quadrant 4 Unimportant and not urgent

Do your best to say goodbye to these tasks. Delete, delete, delete.

Final tips

Many other time-management matrixes are readily available. Do a bit of research and choose what’s best for you given that not all of these design methods and tools are perfect.

Also chat internally to uncover what your organisation has in place and leverage that for maximum productivity.

Want to learn more?

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