We all set Goals, SMART goals we are confident of smashing, but at times we feel overwhelmed by the huge number of tasks before us that we usually don’t know what and what to prioritize and which to wait till later. At times life also happens and when it happens there is a tendency that it will thwart our plans of achieving our set goals. All these are the reason why we need time management skills to make ourselves more productive because it takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.
The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.
Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As the Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.
Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of the many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix or the Prioritization Matrix.
What is Prioritization/Eisenhower Matrix
“Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.” President David Eisenhower – 1957
A priority matrix is a tool for rating tasks based on their importance and urgency. It helps you manage your time effectively by setting priorities based on what’s important and what’s not and then what’s urgent and what’s not.
4 Quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix
There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help determine what to do first and what to do later or not.
The quadrants are:
- Do it now
- DO IT NOW
These are tasks that need urgent attention, they are very important activities that are time bound and consequential if not done immediately. They are very important to your life and you must put them first no matter what. For example, Let’s say you are a final-year student, and you have exams tomorrow, of course reading for your final-year exam is urgent and important, you shouldn’t schedule it and can’t delegate reading to anyone.
How do you know tasks that fall in the Do Quadrant?
Start by analyzing your priorities and determine the ones that will be more consequential if they are not done immediately. They can be taking your medication, going to the hospital for a checkup, submitting assignments, preparing for a speech, and so on.
- SCHEDULE FOR LATER
These tasks are important but do not need urgent attention, they can be scheduled for later. They usually are long-term tasks with no immediate deadline. They could be; calling a sick relative or friend, meditation, journaling, reading a novel, cooking, family time, and exercising.
These tasks require urgent action but are not directly important to you, that is why you are advised to delegate them so you can focus on the tasks in the first two quadrants. These tasks might be booking a flight, ordering food online, preparing a presentation slide, and so on.
- ELIMINATE or DELETE
These tasks are called productivity killers because they are not important and equally not urgent, unfortunately, they are mostly stuff that makes up our daily lives such as Chatting, watching a movie, and scrolling through social media.
Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.
Six Easy Tips on How to Use Prioritization Matrix
1. List and Rank Your Priorities
First, write down all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, put them into 1 of the 4 groups based on urgency and importance. Identify any activity that requires prompt action: these are any tasks that if you don’t complete them that day, could produce a grave consequence. For example, if you don’t read for your final exam, you will probably fail and which could lead to an extra academic year.
2. Define the Value
The next step is to examine the importance of each task and assess which of them impacts you the most. Give each task a priority number. You can estimate the priority order if you’re not sure by thinking about how each task impacts you. The more impact a task has, the higher the priority. This method is known as the Scale of preference.
3. Take out the Most Challenging Task
The truth is that we typically avoid tasks we don’t enjoy. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would complete the day’s most dreaded task first when he got to the office. Brian Tracy called these dreaded tasks “the frogs you need to eat.” Doing the dreaded tasks first will remove the nagging dread, and free up the energy you need to continue your work. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.
4. Know What’s Important to You
You will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from family relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority. Therefore, it makes sense to consciously identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself to act in alignment with that.
5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time
You can also establish a “No Work” Time, this model is synonymous with the famous Demilitarized zone (DMZ) between north and south Korea, the DMZ is a neutral military point set aside by both countries. Likewise, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule for herself not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family. She has been an incredibly successful CEO of YouTube for over 8 years.
Is it possible to carve out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?
Of course, and you should! Setting aside time for doing what you love and what’s important for you allows you to refuel. It gives you the energy you need to be better at your job, to be more creative and introspective, and not burn out. This is why you need to set your “no work” time and stick to it.
6. Know When to Stop
Some days, you simply will not be able to finish everything on your task list. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your importance and urgency, remove the remaining tasks from your list and only focus on your most urgent and important tasks.
Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you and your clients.