I took a Brian Tracy class on Effectiveness, and at the time I really dove into the Eisenhower Matrix. I added a picture to a new tab in OneNote called "Daily Priorities," and resolved to use it during a "Power Hour" I began scheduling every weekday morning.
Several years later in this seasonal time of new beginnings, I realize I've underutilized it and can get much more out of it. I still do my Power Hour (most mornings), and one of the tasks is to review Daily Priorities, but I would generally be too busy, still scrambling to finish yesterday's priorities, to think a lot about urgent vs. important.
But this morning I read an article by James Clear that updated the matrix with action verbs in consonance: Do, Decide, Delegate and Delete. That's a phrase even I can recall quickly.
I also liked the article's observation that elimination (starting with the bottom two quadrants) is more important than optimization, quoting Kevlin Henney's quip regarding programming that “There is no code faster than no code." He also touches on an issue I have of wanting to work faster rather than smarter:
"Too often, we use productivity, time management, and optimization as an excuse to avoid the really difficult question: 'Do I actually need to be doing this?' It is much easier to remain busy and tell yourself that you just need to be a little more efficient or to “work a little later tonight” than to endure the pain of eliminating a task that you are comfortable with doing, but that isn’t the highest and best use of your time. As Tim Ferriss says, 'Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.'
I took a deeper dive and found another article that suggested limiting each quadrant to no more than 8 tasks and another, by Michele McDonough, that pointed to the matrix's chief point of failure: categorizing tasks consistently, which I had not seen the value of before and, consequently, passively deleted out of my matrix routine. To counter this, she gives very tangible definitions of "urgent" vs. "important.": "A task is considered important if your goals are furthered by completing it....[while a task] is considered to be urgent if you or someone else feels it needs to be addressed immediately."
Of course, probably no one has written more about the Eisenhower Matrix than Stephen Covey who covered the concept well in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First but, surprisingly, didn't seem to mention President Eisenhower's invention of the concept. Perhaps that's because the former President accomplished too much to be thought of as merely a project manager.
Tom McClintock is the owner and founder of Relationship Martech.