In our insanely fast-paced age, time seems to not just pass, but flies at the speed of a supersonic aircraft. In such a cycle of events and days, loaded with a mass of cases and plans, we often cannot realize even half of what was planned. And I want to do everything. Let’s take a closer look at how to use time correctly using the Eisenhower matrix.
What it is?
Time is all we have. Whether we live our lives well or badly directly depends on how and on what we spend the time allotted to us. And those who dream of having time to do a lot on their way, as a rule, learn how to effectively manage their time. Time management (time management) is nothing but planning. It is it that helps to stop worrying because of the bitter feeling that time is short, that it is sorely lacking, and because of this, nothing can be done.
Once upon a time, the well-known American military and political figure Dwight David Eisenhower, who was also the President of the United States, seriously engaged in the search for a solution to the problem of effective planning. And he managed to find a solution to this problem, he even came up with his own time management system.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool for setting priorities in business planning, a kind of technology for setting goals and objectives.
It just so happened that the human brain perceives structured information easier and better, that is, it is brought into some particular system, broken down into shelves. At the same time, it would be nice to visualize these shelves, make them visual, for example, using some kind of diagrams or diagrams. It is this principle of distribution of cases that underlies the Eisenhower matrix, which is one of the leading methods in the theory of effective time management.
Visualizing a plan of affairs and actions using a matrix is very simple. Draw a square on paper, divide it with two perpendicular lines into four equal fields. You should get a window with a lattice in the form of a cross. These fields will divide your cases into 4 groups, each of which will depend on the signs of importance / unimportance and urgency / non-urgency. The fields formed from the intersection of lines are called quadrants (a mathematical concept) and are denoted as follows:
- quadrant A (important and urgent tasks);
- quadrant B (important, but not urgent tasks);
- quadrant C (not important, but urgent tasks);
- quadrant D (unimportant and non-urgent tasks).
Advantages and disadvantages
The Eisenhower matrix has both advantages and disadvantages. We will describe both, and start with the advantages.
- Despite its name «matrix», which implies something complex, the system is actually very easy to understand and apply without any difficulty.
- Cases, goals and objectives are divided into only 4 categories, this helps to better navigate them.
- The distribution of tasks according to the criteria of urgency and importance allows you to push non-urgent and unimportant things into the background, thereby allowing important and urgent things to move to the fore. This is how cases are analyzed and filtered. Those that do not need to spend time at all are eliminated.
- The main advantage is that the matrix allows you to make the time spent as efficient as possible, which, in turn, makes it possible to complete everything on time.
This system also has disadvantages.
- The matrix is ineffective in long-term planning. It is suitable for current affairs or those calculated for the near future.
- When there are no daily goals, then there is no need to use such a system.
- To effectively use the matrix, it is necessary to quickly and accurately distribute goals into groups. To do this, you need to understand which of them can be assigned the degree of “important”, and which goals are not very important, which need to be completed urgently, and which are optional. Such training takes time, that is, the matrix does not start to “work” for you immediately, and this is a minus.
- And, as a result of the previous paragraph, there may be errors with the accuracy of assigning cases of a certain status.
But, despite some shortcomings, the Eisenhower matrix is a highly effective time management tool.
Characterization of quadrants
Let’s consider each quadrant of the matrix in more detail.
A (important and urgent tasks)
If you are a master in planning, then quadrant A will be empty. If things appeared in it, this indicates your poor organization. You allow education in cases of emergency work and blockages. The reason for this picture is, as a rule, laziness.
Or you may misplace priorities. Of course, sometimes such situations are acceptable, but when this is observed systematically, then it is simply necessary to work on personal self-discipline. In order to avoid «settlement» of fads in quadrant A, it is necessary to cope with the tasks entered in the remaining fields in a timely manner.
But a small list of things to do in the A quadrant can still be added. It can be:
- health issues;
- cases, the failure of which can provoke problems, worsen the quality of life, threaten well-being in the family and work;
- cases, the failure of which will significantly complicate the path to achieving the main goals or lead to their failure;
- exit from various emergency and crisis situations.
If, nevertheless, you have a lot of points in this quadrant, then throw all your strength into eliminating them. And do not forget that the implementation of some items from the list of important and urgent things can be completely redirected, entrusted to one of the trusted persons, it is not necessary to take the entire load of all cases only on yourself. This approach will help you quickly cope with the fullness of the A quadrant.
B (important but not urgent tasks)
Observations show that people who prefer solving problems from the B quadrant become the most successful, climb the career ladder faster, are the most prosperous financially, do not lack time and live a harmonious, fulfilling life. Non-urgent tasks belong to the category of the most promising and priority ones, and if a person gives them his main attention, then everything works out for him as it should.
It should be taken into account that the absence of urgency in group B sometimes leads to a delay in the implementation of the planned items, and they migrate to group A, where they will already require a quick response. If you solve important, but not very urgent tasks gradually and regularly, then this process will go smoothly and efficiently. The implementation of such cases must be approached responsibly, and the lack of urgency makes it possible to fully control the progress of the case, bring all the details to the ideal, clearly think through all the steps, thereby obtaining a productive result as a result.
It would be reasonable to include in this group all the goals and objectives directly related to the main work, with the planning and analysis of work, educational, sports tasks, in compliance with all regimes and schedules. That is, everything that fills our daily reality and moves us towards high goals.
C (urgent but not important tasks)
The Eisenhower matrix primarily teaches you how to prioritize correctly. This means that the most important thing in planning is the ability to distinguish between important things that lead you to big goals, and secondary ones. The tasks that should be included in group C are not important, in essence, they are things that distract from the main goals, they do not contribute to progress, but, on the contrary, only hinder the development process. Often they make it difficult to concentrate on achieving important goals and thereby reduce the effectiveness of the past tense.
Do not confuse urgent matters from field C, which are unimportant, with urgent matters from field A, which are just extremely important. This tends to leave the really important things in the background. A vivid example of such a situation can be meetings imposed by someone from the outside, in which you do not need, or empty long conversations, going to parties and celebrations, invitations to which come from people who are not of interest to you, some household chores, breakdown of household appliances and the like. Yes, this must be done urgently, but the solution of these tasks is not a vital necessity, and their failure to do so does not entail trouble.
D (non-important and non-urgent tasks)
Classes from this group do not give anything, on the contrary, they can do harm. They should be postponed until later, and it is better to ignore them altogether. But you need to know the enemy in person — you should definitely make a list of such «pests» in field D, because these are the very activities that «eat up» our time. It is these things that are so tempting and attractive to many people with their simplicity and promise to give relaxation and pleasure, to spend time in sweet bliss.
Such characteristics of these «cases» create a huge temptation to deal with them in the first place, and let, as they say, the whole world wait. It can be extremely difficult to get out of the pool of such pseudo-deeds, they are very addictive to a person. But attempts to exterminate the habit of doing them cannot be abandoned.
These activities include:
- talking about nothing, empty, meaningless conversations (both on the phone and live);
- the same as the conversations from the previous paragraph, correspondence in instant messengers, social networks, all kinds of chats;
- watching movies, series, TV programs that do not carry a semantic load, distracting from serious problems and deeds that cause various negative emotions;
- computer and other (non-developing) games.
Rest for the body and soul is undoubtedly needed, but there are many other useful ways to implement it:
- reading quality literature;
- trips to exhibitions, theaters and museums;
- games that develop intelligence;
- classes in the pool, gym, trips to the skating rinks, trips out of town to nature, travel, etc.
If you can’t completely eradicate harmful activities from group D from your life, then you should at least try to delay them, pay attention to them only when tasks from groups A and B are completed. But try to minimize the amount of time devoted to “empty” activities .
Tips for using the method
There is a high probability that the case will be assigned to an inappropriate group. This is the main problem in building a hierarchy of our priorities. To make it easier to deal with it, you need to learn how to answer two questions with two words — “yes” or “no”. For example: “Will doing this task help me get closer to my main goal?” The answer «yes» means the importance of the matter, the answer «no» means unimportance.
“If I don’t solve this problem now, will it lose its relevance tomorrow?” The answer «yes» means the urgency of the case, the answer «no» — not the urgency. Having determined the category for each activity in this way, first of all do the tasks from group A, and then from group B.
The best time to compile the matrix is the beginning of a new day. Think carefully about what tasks you face in the near future and write them down in the form of a regular list. Then test each of them with the above questions and place them in the fields according to the answers. Do not forget to mention the smallest and most insignificant things that just take our time in vain.
You determine the total number of tasks for yourself. Having divided the cases into the appropriate categories, you can write in a notebook or create a usual convenient list in the phone organizer in descending order of urgency and importance, so that the first in the list are the cases from group A, the second — from B, the third — from C, and from D may not be recorded at all. Do not forget that tasks from groups A and C are subject to delegation to relatives, friends, colleagues or subordinates. But group B — these are the things that it is important to do on your own.
Anyone who needs it can use the Eisenhower matrix. It is good because it will be equally useful to everyone, regardless of age and social status: the heads of organizations and enterprises, and ordinary workers and employees, and housewives, and students, and children studying in schools.
This is a universal way of planning precious time.
Let’s look at an example of how the daily entries according to the Eisenhower system might look like.
Group of urgent and important cases:
- drive the car to the service station for repairs, as I need it for work;
- submit a quarterly report;
- deal with the problem that arose with a bank card.
A group of not urgent but important cases:
- develop a new theme and outline the main directions of the new project;
- quit smoking;
- learn English;
- buy a gym membership.
Group of urgent but not important cases:
- go to the anniversary of San Sanych from the legal department;
- congratulate everyone in social networks on the first day of spring.
Group of non-urgent and unimportant cases:
- put things in order in the closet;
- disassemble things on the mezzanine;
- watch the series
- play with a parrot.
The Eisenhower matrix can be compared to a cleaning system, a filter that allows you to get rid of unnecessary things. At first, you may need to write it daily, but as you gain experience, you will begin to feel at the level of intuition which case belongs to which category. And as soon as such a time management system is mastered, and you learn how to use it effectively, as well as correctly distribute cases into quadrants, you will immediately feel a surge of freedom. You will begin to have time to do everything on time and at the same time not to rush, your life will be brought back to normal, goals that seem unattainable will suddenly begin to be achieved. And you will be guaranteed the presence of an excellent condition and high spirits, energy and vivacity.
Discipline is the basis of success. Surely you have paid attention to such people who do not have such qualities, they are in an endless whirlwind of endless «cases», all the time doing something empty, meaningless, but, according to them, impossibly important. And the look of these people is constantly tired, exhausted, lost, unhappy. They are always irritable, fussy and restless.
If you do not want to be like that and do not want to arouse only sympathy and pity in people, then you must act on the principle of the contrary. If this is how everything happens for them, and you want opposite results, then you need to act in opposite ways. Namely: put discipline in order, master the techniques of self-organization, adhere to clear plans, schedules and regimes, clearly understand when and what to do, and most importantly, what is all this for, what is the goal. And the Eisenhower matrix will be a great helper for you in these matters.
After all, it is not for nothing that its founder, whose name it bears, was able to build such a dizzying career and become one of the most famous and beloved presidents of the American people, as well as a very successful military leader. And all this despite the fact that this great man was born in a poor family. With such people, you can safely take an example and use the tools they invented.
Since Eisenhower benefited from this, why not you? In the end, he is the same person as everyone else, and in his day, like everyone else, there were 24 hours — and not an hour more.