Are you working too hard, spending too long trying to be organised in the workplace and struggling to ensure that you are making the correct decisions with your priorities in your work? If so, then you may not be using the best systems to help make your work run as smoothly as possible.
The Eisenhower Matrix, which is something you will learn about on any good project manager course, could very well be the organisational tool that you need to help make your life just that little bit easier. It may take a little bit of getting used to. But, once you know what you are doing, you really will find that you are able to schedule in a much more organised manner. This will help you to complete your goals in a timelier fashion.
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
Before we take you through the benefits of using the Eisenhower Matrix we should first explain what it is. It is a method that allows the user to prioritise the tasks that they need to do based on the urgency of each individual task. It helps them to categorise the tasks into those that are important and need doing urgently and those that do not deserve any attention at all. The method is named after Dwight D Eisenhower. Eisenhower is famously quoted as having said “most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent.”
The quote encapsulates the basis for his own personal views on time management as well.
The matrix itself is split into four quadrants. Any tasks are divided between these to help work out what tasks you need to do at a particular point during the day. These are:
If you want to understand how to schedule better using the Matrix, then it is important to understand each of these quadrants properly.
This quadrant will contain those tasks that are most important, the things that need to be done as a matter of urgency. They may have approaching deadlines or may be things that cannot be delayed.
In order to decide if something belongs in the Do quadrant you need to look at your priorities first and see how they fit, if the work needs doing in the next 24 hours, then it is urgent.
This second quadrant is deciding, this is made up of those tasks that are important but do not constitute urgent. This might include things like follow-ups professional emails, and more personal commitments and appointments.
These are tasks that you can consider scheduling for another time. They are normally more in keeping with your long-term goals and will help to contribute to your growth in your project management role. They need doing but they are not as time sensitive as those tasks that fall into the Do quadrant.
Make sure that you schedule these tasks in the right way so that they do not spill over into your urgent category, allow time for them whilst they are still in the decide quadrant.
In this third quadrant you will be able to place any tasks that are not important and are urgent. It may seem odd that tasks could be considered urgent but not important. However these are those tasks that give you the illusion of being important but in actual fact do not have a significant impact on your productivity levels. These are the tasks you either need to reschedule or delegate to someone else. These might include things like taking a team meeting which could actually be done by another member of the team whilst you work on tasks from quadrant 1.
The final quadrant is eliminating. In this box goes the tasks that make it really hard for you to be productive. They do not have any contribution to your project goals. It is important to be able to identify these tasks and then eliminate them so that you do not waste any more time over them.
These include things like checking your phone, browsing social media – the things we do to procrastinate.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix for Time Management and Scheduling
Used properly, the Matrix can prove to be very useful both in terms of scheduling and time management. The first thing that you will need to do is learn to identify how you would classify your important and urgent activities.
Urgent tasks are usually those which have a time constraint attached to them. These really are considered to be the things to “do now” and often there is something else in the project waiting to be done once you have completed these tasks. Therefore, there are often others depending on you.
These important tasks can often be long term and are more goal-orientated as well, there are no immediate results – meaning you can cross them off your list – instead, they are focused on results in the longer term.
Once you have identified these tasks then there are a few more steps that can help you:
- Identify your professional and personal tasks – make sure you keep the two groups separate and this will help you to organise your time. Allow a certain amount of time for each.
- Limit the number of tasks in a quadrant – it can become very complicated when you have too many items in one quadrant, and this can make it hard to see the flow of the matrix so limit the number to no more than 8, this will be less overwhelming.
There are some great project management tools and software out there that can really help you with this, they are also more time efficient to use to if you really want to be able to schedule better it is worth looking at what is available. If your training for project managers will have taught you anything, it should be that using software when it is available can save you a lot of time and problems.