This article describes the Eisenhower Matrix in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful time management and effectiveness tool. This article also contains a downloadable and editable Eisenhower Matrix template.
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix is also known as the Urgent Important Matrix, Eisenhower Box, Eisenhower Prinicple or the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. It is a frequently used model for time management. On the one hand, it compares urgency, and on the other importance of assignments and helps to set priorities.
The Eisenhower Box model was designed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. Eisenhower also served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces during World War II and later led NATO.
The Eisenhower Matrix consists of four quadrants
- Do (important – urgent)
- Schedule (important – not urgent)
- Delegate (not important – urgent)
- Eliminate (not important – not urgent)
By determining if a task or assignment belongs in one of these quadrants, it becomes easier to prioritise. In addition to that, it becomes easier hand over tasks or delegating to another.
EisenHower Matrix example
Quadrant 1 – Do
This quadrant of the EisenHower Matrix is also called the stress quadrant. That’s because all the tasks in that quadrant can lead to stress. The tasks in this quadrant demand immediate attention.
In this quadrant, you ask yourself if the task has to be carried out by you personally. Are you ultimately responsible and are their potential sanctions if you don’t carry them out? If the answer to that question is an unequivocal ‘yes’, then the task is important.
Next, you ask if the task really needs to be done today, or within a few hours. It can be the case that the task can be postponed until tomorrow. If it is about urgent and important tasks, then the answer is ‘yes’, meaning the task is urgent.
We’ll use a regional hospital for this example.
The hospital regularly handles accident and emergency patients transported by ambulance who need care quickly. If an urgent case comes in with a patient with acute appendicitis, then the urgency and importance to operate is very high. These can be defined as important activities. The hospital has free operating rooms and there is a team of surgeons on site. Unquestionably, the operation will have to be performed in the (very) near future, and it’s a task that belongs in quadrant 1.
Quadrant 2 – Schedule
In this quadrant of the EisenHower Box, you ask yourself again if the task can be carried out by you only. It’s no different from quadrant 1. Urgency is once again about whether the task has to be done today and within the next few hours.
If it turns out that postponing is an option, it would be unwise to pay attention to this task today. If you do, you’ll run into issues with the tasks that were already in the first quadrant.
This hospital from the example has a specialist plastic surgery team, whose procedures include blepharoplasty. The hospital has invested in this team and business is going well, as there are a lot of people requesting this minor surgical procedure.
Usually these are patients who find it very inconvenient to have heavy eyelids, and want to have them corrected.
It is it important for the hospital to carry out these procedures themselves?
The answer is ‘yes’. But does it have to happen today? The answer to the question of urgency is ‘no’.
Quadrant 3 – Delegate
In this quadrant of the EisenHower Matrix, you ask if the task that has to be carried out, is part of you responsibilities. If it can also be carried out by others, the task isn’t that important to you. If the task cannot wait until tomorrow, but has to be addressed and carried out today, the urgency is high.
Consider the example with a case of a patient with acute appendicitis who is rushed to the hospital. It’s clear that it’s an urgent matter, however, there currently is no operating room available in the hospital. As a result, people are making urgent calls to ask nearby hospitals who can perform surgery on the patient right away. In this case, the matter is handed over (delegated) to someone else.
It’s not possible for someone who’s working on a big job to split himself in two by taking on another urgent task. There is the possibility to quickly take on and carry out the assignment. Look for someone else who does have the time to carry out the task and delegate.
Quadrant 4 – Eliminate
This quadrant of the EisenHower Box is for the tasks that don’t directly fall under someone’s responsibility. The tasks also don’t have an arguency to them. It’s also called the escape quadrant.
In most cases, the problems in this quadrant solve themselves or can be scheduled of the long term. Durch Einfach Liegen Lassen Erledigen (DELLE) is a phrase that really applies to this quadrant; ‘leave it, it’ll solve itself.’
In the example, an annual patient satisfaction survey is somewhat important for the hospital. The hospital doesn’t have to conduct the survey themselves. They hire a company to do it for them, meaning they delegate the task.
The survey definitely doesn’t have to be done today or tomorrow. It can easily be scheduled for later in the year.
Planning is a particularly important factor in the second quadrant of the EisenHower Box. It’s worth it to create clear task lists based on an honest and concrete time indication. Fooling yourself by thinking that a task that will take two hours can be done in 30 minutes, really isn’t helpful. The method is useful to eliminate time wasting and aligning priority levels. By only carrying out urgent activities, you are much more likely to achieve your goals, both long term goals and short term goals.
By dividing a large job into subtasks, they become simpler to work on and it becomes easier to meet deadlines. Working with these so-called To-Do Lists makes it clear what has been done during a day. Use color codes for visibility.
Eisenhower Matrix template
This Eisenhower Matrix template helps you to manage time. Start listing which tasks have to be carried out right away, which tasks can be dealt with at a later time or which can even be ignored completely.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is the Eisenhower Matrix applicable in your daily work? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for deciding whether a task is urgent and/or important?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
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- 50Minutes.com. (2017). Beat Procrastination For Good: Change Your Habits And Start Getting Things Done. 50Minutes.com.
- Drake Baer (April 10, 2014). Dwight Eisenhower Nailed A Major Insight About Productivity. Business Insider, (accessed 31 March 2015)
- Kirillov, A. V., Tanatova, D. K., Vinichenko, M. V., & Makushkin, S. A. (2015). Theory and practice of time-management in education. Asian Social Science, 11(19), 193.
- McKay; Brett; Kate (October 23, 2013). The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life. A Man’s Life, Personal Development.
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