The Eisenhower Method

April 13, 2020

The Eisenhower Method is a useful time management tool for organizing daily tasks to prioritize them accordingly. It carries an underlying assumption that all of your tasks can be categorized into one of the four groups. i) Important and requires your immediate response ii) Important but can wait for iii) Not Important but needs immediate response iv) Neither important nor requires an immediate response. You need to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not, and what’s urgent and what’s not.

Most of us have certain ambitions in life and goals we want to accomplish. But all of us suffer from a fleeting attention span and mental fog. This presents substantial challenges to get things done, things that matter. A constant bombardment of social media keeps our minds occupied. It offers a delusion that since our mind is constantly occupied processing random junk, we must be doing something meaningful. But are we really? Time carries on indifferent to our struggles. Instead of rebelling against it, we can actually harness time to our advantage and get out of the rut. And that’s where the Eisenhower Method contributes to the art of mastering time management.

It’s important to understand that if all of them were important, then nothing would be important. And if all of them were urgent, then nothing would, in fact, be urgent. The oxymoron is inescapable. Your actions will naturally reflect how your brain unconsciously labels a given task. We procrastinate most with difficult tasks, regardless of their place in the importance hierarchy. That’s when we have to intervene and make a conscious effort into reducing task friction. The categorization takes a visual form of a 2×2 matrix popularly known as the Eisenhower Box. The four quadrants of the matrix represent the categories of tasks that you are required to designate at first.

IMPORTANT AND URGENT TASKS

Important and Urgent tasks are required to be done immediately and likely in the first hour of the day. Tasks of this nature are usually a deadline. They come in the form of an emerging crisis or a high-stake problem. They require your undivided attention immediately or will spiral into something serious. These are tasks that you need to take care of yourself and nobody else can fill up for you. No one else but you can fully understand the gravitas of the situation. You can imagine it as a fire in your kitchen that needs to be put out right now. It cannot wait. A more tangible example would be a last-minute deadline that has been assigned to you from your office. It needs your immediate attention or else you would have your head on the chopping block the next day.

IMPORTANT AND NOT URGENT TASKS

Important and Not Urgent tasks are essential in the long term for your overall goals and wellbeing. Jumping from one deadline to the next will rob you of all energy to make long-term plans. Thus, you will never be able to escape the rat race. These will not come back right as dusk falls to haunt you in your sleep for temporarily putting it onto the hold. This is, of course, not to undermine the importance of the subject. Since they don’t require your immediate response, the Eisenhower Method grants you the option to schedule them for a later time when you have less pressing problems. Tasks like these could include catching up with friends and family, exercising to stay in shape, planning ideas to create multiple income streams, spending time to learn a new language or a new skill, etc.

NOT IMPORTANT AND URGENT TASKS

Not Important and Urgent tasks are more trivial in nature. Nonetheless, they carry a time component which is why these tasks pretentiously don a veil of urgency. These are typically tasks that are not mentally taxing. They can just as easily be done by somebody else. Eisenhower proposes that tasks of this nature are better off delegated to somebody else. That way you have one less thing on your plate. The idea is to free one’s mind to tackle more pressing issues. Tasks that can be delegated are picking up groceries for dinner, and washing that stained garment from last night.

NOT IMPORTANT AND NOT URGENT TASKS

Not Important and Not Urgent tasks are engaged in entirely for pleasure. Although the Eisenhower Method ruthlessly cuts off all such activities, I beg to differ. I would argue that they do play a role in restoring work-life balance. They are therefore necessary for overall well-being and even productivity for that matter. A better way out is to limit them. It’s important to internalize that the trade-off for realizing your dreams requires you to delay instant gratification. Tasks that fall under this category are catching up on TV shows which is the new buzz of the town and binge-watching it for hours on end, and aimlessly browsing social media until you are exhausted out of your mind.

The idea is to live a more intentional life by making the best use of your day. Eliminate tasks that take up large chunks of your time but don’t contribute to the progress of your goals. The Eisenhower Method is an essential time management skill that helps you reduce stress and eliminate last-minute panicking. Understanding The Pareto Distribution will further relieve you from stress. The Eisenhower Method starts by asking yourself what is worth doing first. You could plan the night before or do it in the first hour. You are the architect of your life. The activities that you choose to put under these categories will reflect your intention and priority. It will determine how you can use your waking hours to accomplish things that you value. Reshuffling the tasks you deem as important and urgent will tip the sail of your ship into your desired direction.

© Amitabha Dey. All rights reserved.