Taskology: Organizing Your Workload with Eisenhower’s Matrix

Taxes are coming due, exam time is upon us, and the urgency of summer planning is front and centre. With all of this on our plates, how can one possibly organize both thoughts & tasks to ensure things get done efficiently and effectively? It would seem that some super-organization app is required, or maybe a personal assistant to keep you in check. All you need in reality though are a set of tasks, a pen, and a pad – it’s as easy as that.

I read about Eisenhower’s Urgency Matrix in an article a few years back and have been using the principles ever since. The matrix allows me (and soon, you) to organize tasks into 4-quadrants, easily pinpointing which are must-do’s and which can wait until a later time. The exercise can be done within minutes and will provide incredible structure to an otherwise seemingly overwhelming list of tasks.

Here is how it works:

Start by listing all of your tasks one-by-one on a sheet of paper, be sure to get all of them down (or at least as close to all as you can). You’ll want to make sure each item needing attention is visible. Once done, your list should look similar to this:

Tasks for April 16th, 2018

  • Read 3 chapters of my book
  • Complete term paper
  • Study for Exam
  • Work on novel
  • Begin filing personal income tax
  • Go to the gym
  • Run errands
  • Respond to emails

Once the tasks are jotted down, begin categorizing them into one of the four categories below. It’s important to understand the distinction between the two labels, as being able to accurately ‘bin’ your tasks will make all the difference.

Urgent refers to tasks that require our attention right now, they are things that must be done immediately or else penalties will be faced. Important refers to tasks that help us work toward & achieve our goals, these being items which have a large impact on both our future selves and successes.

It’s imperative to remember that not all urgent tasks are important, and regardless of how extensive the list becomes you must refrain from believing that they take precedence. Now onto the bins.

Bin 1: Urgent & Important

These are tasks that require your urgent attention and are also important to you short-term success. This bin takes priority as you can’t afford to put off these tasks much longer (unless you’re a fan of crippling anxiety). Here are some examples of both Urgent & Important tasks from the list above:

  • Complete term paper
  • Study for exam
  • Personal income tax

Once completed, you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders (or a frog in your stomach) from the release of pressing stresses. Next, you’ll need to move on to bin’s 2 and 3.

Bin 2: Urgent & Not Important

These are tasks that require your urgent attention but don’t necessarily provide you with any momentum towards your future goals. These tasks should be tended to as immediately as possible, but try and be efficient with them – don’t get caught wasting time where it isn’t needed. Here are some examples of Urgent & Unimportant tasks from the list above:

  • Respond to emails
  • Running errands

Allocating a portion of each day (maybe one hour in the morning/afternoon) to accomplish all of these will prevent them from spilling out and consuming your time.

Bin 3: Not Urgent & Important

These tasks are my absolute favourite.  ‘NU & I’ tasks are where you can work on progressing yourself, filling your time with projects and tasks that will benefit you over the long-term. These tasks are easy to lose sight of due to the lack of urgency, however, they are crucial to your success. Here are some examples of Not Urgent & Important tasks from the list above:

  • Work on novel
  • Go to the gym
  • Read 3 chapters of my book

Do your best to find time in each day for your NU & I’s, these aren’t tasks you’ll want to lose focus of for weeks as it’ll harm both your progress and your mental well-being.

Bin 4: Not Urgent & Not Important

These tasks are virtually useless. If you catch yourself getting lost in this bin, take a deep breath and get back to the other 3! Time for relaxation/rest should definitely be made a part of your schedule, getting caught up in ‘NU & NI’ tasks can be deadly though. Here are a few examples to give you an idea:

  • Mindlessly scrolling through social media
  • Watching TV
  • Online shopping

If you genuinely enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians, feel free to do so. Just make sure you have your other tasks finished up first.

Here is our finished matrix:

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 6.19.18 PM

In order to remain stress-free, pay particular attention to the ‘U & I’ bin, it isn’t an area you’ll want to neglect. You must then focus on the ‘U & NI”, but do so sparingly, as an over expenditure of time in this area can be dangerous. When I say dangerous, I’m referring to two items in particular – the first being that the list of Urgent & Non-important tasks is seemingly endless, you can fill your time indefinitely with them. The second, and most important, is that it will keep your attention away from the ‘I & NU’ tasks, these being where all of the magic happens.

Schedule your days with this matrix in mind and see how quickly your mountain of tasks becomes a molehill.


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