The Eisenhower Method
Do you have an ongoing, neverending to-do list? As soon as you clear something out, a new task will take its place. In today’s article we are going to examime the The Eisenhower Method which is a great way to manage your time and prioritize your tasks. I’m also going to provide you with a productivity hack to add to the model.
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Brainstorm your tasks
Take a piece of paper and brainstorm all your tasks in an assorted list. This is your Master To Do list. I have described a method to do this in a previous blog post. Ideally, you do this at the beginning of every week or month, so you can plan things through and get an accurate time estimation on every task.
Now it’s time for you to start prioritizing the level of urgency and importance among your tasks. Draw four squares according to the Eisenhower model below to decide what needs to be done right now, what can be delayed and so forth.
- Important/urgent : These are tasks that needs to be done ASAP. Ideally, you have migrated them from square 2 (yellow square). You have already planned them ahead and now is the time to deal with them. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything is important and urgent. Put some time and effort into this and think it through.
- Important/not urgent: This is where the magic happens! This is the square where you want to be. Plan ahead, and you don’t have to improvise.
- Urgent/not important: These are tasks that you can delegate to someone else.
- Not urgent/not important: Distractions and tasks that you should say no to. All these tasks do is to make you procrastinate the more important tasks. Delete them or say no!
Productivity hack nr 1: Stay inside the yellow square
Oftentimes we tend to make a to-do-list in a hurry and concentrate on the green IMPORTANT/URGENT square. We note the most urgent stuff that has to be done ASAP. But that’s a terrible idea since it leads to stress. You never seem to get things done if you continously put tasks in this square.
Make it a rule of thumb to never put things in there that haven’t passed the yellow square first. This might seem counter intuitive to you at first, but it’s important not get too overwhelmed with the neverending ASAP stuff.
The trick is also to have as many tasks as possible in the yellow IMPORTANT/NOT URGENT square. This way you can plan ahead and migrate tasks everyday that need to go into the IMPORTANT/URGENT square.
Productivity hack nr 2: The “invisible fifth square” in the Eisenhower Method
Even though this is an imaginary, invisible square it’s highly relevant. You have to think this through before you even start to fill out any of the other squares. So what is this magic square about?
Well, it’s where you decide whether a task is going to have synergies and a compound effect in the future. Of course, this can be hard to know! But if you have this thought in mind even before you start to fill out the other squares, You’re more likely to make the right decisions on where to put the tasks in the first place.
But how are you going to know what is going to create ripple effects and synergies in the future? you ask.
One way to experiment with what works and what doesn’t is to use the Pareto principle or The 80/20 Principle which claims that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your effort. It’s great if you can weed out ineffective tasks before they even enter the model.
A trick is to set a fixed number of tasks to put in the IMPORTANT/URGENT square everyday. This way you don’t get overwhelmed by tasks, and you have a reasonable amount of tasks that needs to be done that day.
When you’ve cleared all the tasks in the IMPORTANT/URGENT square for the day, you can decide if you want to start with tomorrow’s tasks. This way, every additional task today is something you don’t have to do tomorrow, which will feel like a bonus. And you will get the feeling that you’re ahead of your schedule.