President Dwight D. Eisenhower (US President 1953 – 1961) had a point, I believe, when he spoke about urgency and importance in tasks. You can imagine, as General in the US Army, then Allied Forces Supreme Commander during WW2 and later as US President, Eisenhower had quite a bit on his plate!
Many of us can identify with his constant spinning of plates, work overload, decisions to be made and stuff to get done. Today, even more so – I would think – than back in Eisenhower’s day. Today we have not only task overload but also information overload. Constant pressure to perform to a higher standard, do more, achieve more – be more. No wonder most of us feel overwhelmed and stressed.
I do believe however, that Eisenhower was quite correct – it is all about prioritisation. If we can just figure out a way to prioritise tasks, we can eliminate all the irrelevant things and actually get important stuff done – move our businesses forward, be less stressed and enjoy life a bit more. Which made me dig out the old Eisenhower Matrix again….
Why re-invent the wheel – go back to a proven system for prioritisation. Eisenhower developed his Matrix decades ago, but it is still as relevant today as it was then – in fact, I believe even more so.
Eisenhower’s Matrix looks at the urgency and importance of a task, to then assign it to a particular quadrant – thus assigning a priority. According to the Matrix, there are four types of priorities:
- Urgent and Important (Quadrant 1)
- Not Urgent and Important (Quadrant 2)
- Urgent and Less Important (Quadrant 3)
- Not Urgent and Less Important (Quadrant 4)
Quadrant 1 is the “Stressed” quadrant. Here we work on looming deadlines, proposals which need to go out, overdue accounts etc. This is the fire-fighting and crisis control quadrant where, in my experience, most people spend most of their time.
Quadrant 2 is the “Strategic” quadrant. This will include tasks with a future deadline, long term projects, planning, reviews, marketing and client retention related activities. Sadly, little time in spent in this quadrant. Many people have tasks in this quadrant, but do not action them until they become so urgent that they need to be shifted to Quadrant 1 – to the “Stressed” zone.
Quadrant 3 is the “Delegation” quadrant. Tasks which can be outsourced to someone else, fits into this area. These tasks are urgent, but it’s not important that YOU action it. Admin and filing of paperwork can be done by a PA or VA, social media management can be delegated to an expert company etc.
Quadrant 4 is the “Distraction” quadrant. These activities should be avoided at all costs. It is not urgent and certainly not important so why do it?! This includes aimless web surfing, meetings without goals, chatting with co-workers etc.
Personally, I prefer to work in a non-stressed environment, where I can focus on high impact activities. I know I perform much better if I am not in a state of overwhelm and crisis. I know I need to work in the “Strategic” quadrant. This is where I can focus, get stuff done and only spend my time on important things.
Let me know in the comments in which quadrant you currently spend most of your time and also where you think you should spend most of your time.
Tiana Wilson-Buys is a Business Consultant and Productivity Strategist. She offers a free 10-Day Time-Saving Tactics programme via e-mail which you can find here.