An important and widespread technique in time management is the Eisenhower Matrix. This technique takes its name from former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who used it himself and taught it to his colleagues.
The basic idea of the Eisenhower principle is a targeted categorization of tasks. The division into four categories should make it easier to decide what to do next. The classification is based on two parameters:
Importance of a Task
A task is considered important if it serves the achievement of objectives. A task that does not bring you closer to any of your goals is considered unimportant.
Urgency of a Task
A task is urgent if it loses its meaning on a certain date in the near future. If (in the near future) it does not matter when you complete the task, the task is not urgent.
How to read the Matrix
According to the Eisenhower Matrix, the tasks in the respective quadrant should be dealt with as follows:
- Important and urgent: These tasks are of the highest value when it comes to achieving goals. You should, therefore, do them yourself immediately. Only if you take care of these tasks yourself, you can be sure that the tasks will actually be completed.
- Important, but not urgent: Since these tasks are also important for the achievement of goals, you take care of them yourself. However, the completion is not bound to a certain time frame in the near future. It is therefore sufficient to set a precise time for the completion of these tasks.
- Urgent, but not important: these tasks should be completed promptly, but it is normally not necessary for you to take care of the task yourself. Eisenhower, therefore, recommends delegating tasks in this quadrant as far as possible.
- Neither important nor urgent: Tasks which do not bring you closer to your goals and which, on top of that, do not care when they are completed, have the least value. In case of doubt, these tasks can be left unfinished.
Good but not flawless
Eisenhower Matrix is one of the classics of time management. If you’ve dealt with time management before, you’ll have encountered it before. Nevertheless, there are always points of criticism. The most important objection is the question of how one actually defines “important” and “urgent” for oneself – because the Eisenhower principle does not help with this classification. In addition, the principle does not help if tasks in a relatively small area accumulate; this can easily happen because important tasks are rarely urgent and urgent tasks are rarely important. This aspect becomes understandable when seen against the background of Eisenhower as commander-in-chief of the Allies in World War II. In this context, this kind of prioritization certainly makes sense – and whether it can be transferred to non-military everyday life is probably very different from person to person.
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