Improvement tools do not necessarily need to be complicated: learn more in the following blogpost about the Eisenhower matrix, a simple task prioritization tool used all over the world to divide your long "to do" list in 4 no-nonsense action categories!
The moment you open your mailbox in the morning, you already should be prepared for it: the number of tasks hitting you each day can be overwhelming. However, the trick is to discern in a simple and more impactful way how to set priorities and get a manageable level of productivity (and avoid sleepless nights due to open action points).
History of the method
““I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” (Eisenhower).
Dwight D. Eisenhower was a famous politician and five-star ranking General of the United States Army, ultimately becoming the 34th President of the United States (and considered among the upper tier of American presidents). Next to leading the victorious forces in Europe during World War II, he obtained a truce in Korea and work incessantly during his two terms to ease tensions of the Cold War. The Eisenhower matrix is named after one of his quotes, in which he explains that importance and urgency are different aspects to consider in prioritization. However, do not think that Eisenhower sat down at the table to create the Eisenhower matrix itself on a paper quadrant, that is wrongly over-romanticized on the internet... Not that he could not manage it with his time management: he had many other interests, such as oil painting, golf and even getting a nickname as a "Bridge Wizard".
The actual matrix was developed years later by Stephen Covey in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", but is a fun and simple tool to prioritize tasks (also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix)
The mere Urgency Effect
As a former PhD researcher, I am still excited about the use of scientific research tools to investigate real-life problems. I believe that facts and figures can really help in understanding the world around us and our own daily life, which is why I was intrigued about the "Mere Urgency Effect" from Zhu et al. (2018) in the Journal of Consumer Research. In this article it is shown that people may choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows, instead of important tasks with larger outcomes, because important tasks are more difficult and further away from goal completion. Strangely enough it seems that urgent tasks involve more immediate rewarding feelings, or people want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later. This is called the "mere urgency effect", which means that people choose urgency over importance even when the objective outcome is worse! I challenge you all to look at your Outlook meeting calendar of this week with this new insight :-)
How does the tool work?
The actions are divided in four different categories based on their urgency and importance:
Important and Urgent = DO IT. These actions have deadlines or consequences, tackle them asap!
Important and Not Urgent = SCHEDULE IT. These actions will have impact on the longer term, but if you don't schedule them, it will never happen so don't take that risk and schedule them.
Not Important and Urgent = DELEGATE IT. Win time by trying to delegate these tasks, maybe they don't need your specific attention or skill set and it gives you more time to focus on the DO category instead.
Not Important and Not Urgent = DELETE IT. It may be difficult but to manage it is necessary to reduce distractions and unnecessary tasks. If you are trying to please people, try to do this in a respectful and transparent way instead of letting it "fester" on your to-do list.
Keep this information on the back of your mind while setting your priorities and start to visualize it in a fast way to improve the amount of time you spend in each quadrant (tip: you will win time and energy once you can move away from Quadrant 1 to Quadrant 2). Good luck!
P.S. If you want more practical advice on how to allocate the tasks, get an automatic Eisenhower excel template and link this tool in an enthusiastic & no-nonsense way to your KPI process, read more about the KPI Masterclass training program on the following link.
The program is a combined online+offline training program with personalized 1-2-1 support by Silvie Coutuer which will teach you :
to save you time and energy from useless or non-measurable KPI's
improve action follow-up and productivity but mostly improve your peace of mind
have impact on your organization with lasting and positive results
P.P.S. Take action now to register (this action is in the Urgent and Important Quadrant :-) since registrations close on 01/12/2022 so hurry up and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your spot or register directly on your favourite launch page (English program or Dutch program).
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