The Eisenhower Matrix

Many of us struggle with having a seemingly endless ToDo list.  While prioritizing it can sometimes help, often writing the number 48 in front of an activity can just cause more frustration.  Years ago I looked for ways to manage my list.  I asked peers and mentors how they dealt with the things they had to do.  Some didn’t keep lists, others simply let the list grow and took a “it is what it is” approach.  Finally, one of my mentors asked me a simple question.  “What things on your list are urgent and important at the same time?”  Peering down my list I could mark 4-5 things that had to be done soon and were important to me, the rest I was just “keeping track of.”  As the discussion continued, my mentor described the Eisenhower Matrix, a tool used by our 34th President and Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII.

President Eisenhower made the distinction between urgent and important in what is now known as the “Eisenhower Matrix.”




Simply put, you can classify all your work into one of four categories.

Urgent & Important:  Do it right now.  These are the things that matter most.  Mark these with a “!” on your list.

Not Urgent & Important:  Decide when you will do it.  Give yourself a deadline.  Mark these with a “?” on your list.

Urgent & Not Important: Delegate it.  This needs to be done soon, but how it gets done is not important.  If possible have someone else do it for you.  Mark these with a “V” on your list.

Not Urgent & Not Important.  Delete it.  Why is this on your list?  Mark these with an “X” on your list or simply cross them out.  For some reason these are the most interesting to me.  How did these get on my list?

I hope this help some of you wrangle your hefty lists.  Good luck!

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