Prioritizing Your Time [Eisenhower Matrix]
Prioritizing Your Time
SUPERHUMAN SCORE: 8.38
Imagine navigating the immense pressures of being the President of the United States and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II.
This was the reality for Dwight D. Eisenhower, a man whose exceptional time management and productivity skills are legendary.
One of his legacies is a simple yet powerful tool, the Eisenhower Matrix:
(Stephen Covey popularized the framework in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
By categorizing tasks into four quadrants: Important-Urgent (Do), Important-Not Urgent (Schedule), Not Important-Urgent (Delegate), and Not Important-Not Urgent (Delete)—it empowers you to focus on what truly matters.
Let me break it down.
In every edition of System Sunday, I assess the featured system across three superhuman dimensions: impact, setup, and maintenance.
Unlike your typical review, I focus on factors that influence personal growth. Get to know the evaluation system.
By distinguishing between what's urgent and what's important, you’ll learn to prioritize tasks that align with your long-term goals over those that demand immediate attention but contribute little to your progress.
This clarity boosts your efficiency and reduces stress—as you navigate through life with a purpose-driven approach.
Setting up your Eisenhower Matrix is as simple as drawing a two-by-two grid.
Label the rows as “Important” and “Not Important” and the columns as “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.” You’ll create four quadrants:
These tasks are important AND urgent. They demand immediate attention.
Examples are a deadline-driven work project, crisis management, or an immediate family obligation.
- Complete crucial work tasks first thing in your day. (“Swallow the frog.”)
- Block out distractions. Turn off desktop notifications and put your phone in Airplane Mode (or Do Not Disturb Mode).
These are important but not urgent tasks. Schedule these for later so you have a trusted plan to complete them (and stop looping in your head).
Examples are a recurring exercise routine, a weekly dinner date, or an upcoming vacation (to name a few).
- Time-block the activity in your calendar.
- Beware of time and energy traps. Sometimes, we identify activities as Important-Not Urgent that are Not Important-Not Urgent. For example, if you don’t want to do a networking call tomorrow, don’t schedule it in two weeks. You won’t want to do it then, either.
3. Delegate or Automate
These are not important but urgent. Hire someone else to do these activities or automate them (if you can).
Consider outsourcing urgent activities that fall outside your “zone of genius.” For example, plowing my driveway of snow is urgent, but I can spend my time better elsewhere.
Tips: I wrote a popular post on 17 one-time decisions (many of which are delegations or automations). These will save you time and peace of mind.
These tasks are neither important nor urgent. Remove them from your list.
Still not sure what’s important?
Try this rule of thumb from Naval Ravikant, “As long as you’re doing what you want, it’s not a waste of your time. But if you’re not spending your time doing what you want, and you’re not earning, and you’re not learning—what the heck are you doing?”
- Master saying “no” graciously with this 5-step method.
- Use this boundary-setting framework if someone keeps adding Not Important-Not Urgent items to your plate.
When you first adopt the Eisenhower Matrix, practice categorizing and writing down incoming tasks into the four quadrants.
In my research, I came across two helpful resources:
Over time, you’ll become skilled in mentally triaging incoming tasks and taking the next appropriate action.
BRINGING IT HOME
You can achieve anything you want, but not everything others want from you.
Greatness lies in the ability to discern between the trivial many and the vital few.
Embrace this tool and step into clarity, purpose, and unparalleled productivity.
All systems go,
P.S. You just read the 100th edition of System Sunday! 🎉 Since launching two years ago, this community has grown to 256,159 newsletter subscribers and 1.6M across social. I so appreciate your support – it means the world to me!
Btw, I’m now offering 1:1 coaching and a self-paced course (1,300 students, 5-star reviewed) for people who want to write online and build their thought leadership. It might not surprise you that I also have some powerful business systems. I’d love to help you on your journey. 🤝