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Home My to-do list is just too long! How can I use the Eisenhower Matrix to improve my prioritization?

My to-do list is just too long! How can I use the Eisenhower Matrix to improve my prioritization?


Am I busy or am I productive? On some days, I feel so engrossed in multiple activities that 24 hours does not seem enough to make a dent in my to-do list. At the end of the day, I feel tired, but there is a lingering feeling that I have made little progress towards my goals. True enough, I finish many tasks, but I feel obliged and rushed. It is like running around all day, like I was being chased.

A positive change in the way I manage my time and the way I prioritize my tasks happened when I changed my perspective about what makes tasks “important” and what makes others “urgent, but not important.” 

You may have seen the Urgent-Important Matrix, also called the Eisenhower Matrix, when searching for time management and prioritization tools. One of the most accomplished presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, invented this system of prioritizing tasks by their urgency and importance.

How do you use the Eisenhower matrix? 

  • First, categorize tasks into 4 quadrants. 

Quadrant 1: Do first. What do you need to do within the day? 

Quadrant 2: Important, and scheduled. What tasks are important, not urgent, but should be scheduled?

Quadrant 3: Delegate. What needs to be done today because they are important, but they can be done by others? 

Quadrant 4: Drop. What is neither urgent nor important? I don’t have to do these tasks at all. 

  • What is the first quadrant, “Do first” ? 

These tasks are urgent because they have a very strict deadline. You have to do them today or tomorrow, and failure to do them would have immediate negative consequences to your personal or professional life. It usually involves meeting other people’s expectations, or answering their needs. 

  • What is Quadrant 2, “Important, and scheduled”?

Use your calendar to plot these tasks. They are important to your short-term and long term goals, values, life vision or mission. You define what is important to you, and when you plan your actions, you make the most of your time, energy and concentrated action. 

  • What is Quadrant 3, “Delegate”?

These are also urgent tasks that need your attention within the day or the next day, but they are less important than the first quadrant tasks. Most likely, these are favors or requests of you. You can give these tasks a little of your time by delegating them to a better person for the job or provide the necessary information asked of you, but letting others come up with their own solutions. 

  • What is Quadrant 4, “Drop”? 

These are often called time-wasters because these activities do not really bring us closer to goals, they are not important, and often serve as our way to escape doing important things. These include browsing through social media or replying to personal messages during your scheduled work time. 

  • Make a more thoughtful to-do list.
Thinking about our things to do can clutter our mind, but writing them down frees us space in our mind. But instead of just jotting them down in one list, make them go through the Eisenhower matrix first. 

  • Limit the list to avoid being fatigued.
However tempting it might be, writing too many things in your 4 quadrants can be overwhelming. You can limit your list to a manageable number, especially in Quadrant 1. Squeezing too many urgent and important tasks in one day will easily lead to fatigue. 

The Eisenhower matrix is a simple and straightforward tool for achieving our short-term and long-term goals through effectively prioritizing our daily tasks. 

An inspiring thought that encourages me to pursue productivity says that our faithfulness in doing the small things becomes our strength. Let’s not just be busy, but productive! 

You can check out a sample of the Eisenhower Matrix

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My to-do list is just too long! How can I use the Eisenhower Matrix to improve my prioritization?
Brandon Resasco