PRODUCTIVITY

Eisenhower Matrix

Prioritizing tasks may just be one of the most important skills you ever learn. The Eisenhower Matrix provides a quick mental model for focusing on what really matters.
Goals
  • Setting priorities
  • Improving work flow
  • Maximizing efficiency
Tool themes
  • Productivity
  • Time management

Deciding what matters... and what doesn’t

Multitasking is a myth. Your mind can only focus properly on one challenge at a time. But when faced with an overwhelming to-do list, how to decide which task deserves your attention first, and which can wait? Which tasks can be delegated to others, thus saving you time and energy? For many of us, it’s all too tempting to do the easy stuff first – returning an email, for example. The email may be important, but it’s not urgent.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple but astoundingly effective framework for improving time management and productivity by prioritizing tasks. Popularized by author Stephen Covey in his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the framework has you plot tasks on a four-quadrant grid. You do this by asking yourself two questions about everything on your agenda: Is this urgent? Is it important?

Quadrant I: Urgent and important
An upcoming project deadline, for example. This deserves your immediate time and attention.

Quadrant II: Important, but not urgent
Reading a new book by a leader in your field. Important for your career, but it can wait, so set a time to do it later.

Quadrant III: Urgent, but not important
Distractions like an unexpected call or last-minute meeting request. Delegate these tasks if possible, as they can cost time while producing little value.

Quadrant IV: Neither urgent nor important
The stuff of procrastination. Checking Facebook, for example. Cut these from your day as much as possible.

Think of the Eisenhower Matrix as a decision-making tool. Use it at the start of the work week, or every morning, and stick to your decisions. To get into the matrixing habit, try making the tool visual and tangible: Create a matrix on the wall, and prioritize your to-do list on the grid using Post-its.

If you use a digital tool or calendar to manage your day, it can be helpful to use color-coding: red for Quadrant I tasks, orange for Quadrant II tasks, and so on.

Sources

  • Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Explore our tools
Free
Centering It’s all too easy to get distracted. This easy exercise anchors you in the here and now – breathing your way to a point of centered focus.
Learn more
Free
Interview Log Good user research requires good preparation. Use this log to hone your objective, structure your questions and document results.
Learn more
Free
I like, I wish Well-facilitated workshops end with a feedback round. This method provides a balanced and transparent framework for effective feedback.
Learn more
Free
World Café A must in the toolbox of every pro facilitator. It enables groups to share insights and stories and collaboratively explore a theme.
Learn more
Free
60-20-20 Rule A simple strategy for maintaining balance in your work life – and boosting productivity at the same time.
Learn more
Free
Feedback Grid Make the most of the feedback you receive. This template will guide you and your team to discover patterns and draw conclusions.
Learn more
Free
Cool Team Name Game A fun warm-up exercise to break the ice and get to know some unusual things about your team members.
Learn more
Free
Check-in, Check-out Improve team communication and productivity. A daily habit to help team members connect and align their goals.
Learn more
Free
ORID Method Empower groups to make well-informed decisions by facilitating them through a structured reflection process.
Learn more
Free
Sociometry Break the ice and fuel discussion. This interactive exercise explores and visualizes the connections within a group.
Learn more