The Eisenhower Box: How The Urgent-Important Matrix Can Help You Succeed

Eisenhower Box

A lot of things that take up mental energy, waste time, and rarely move you toward your goals can easily be eliminated if you apply the Eisenhower Principle,” adds Oppong, founder of AllTopStartups.

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Here we are going to take a closer look at each of the quadrants mentioned in the Eisenhower Box to understand which categories we need to focus more on to build a better life.

1. Quadrant One: Important and Urgent (Do First)

Quadrant 1: Do first

According to the Eisenhower Box, important and urgent activities require you to do them first. As these tasks generally have a deadline, they demand that you take immediate action as there might be consequences for procrastination. These tasks usually come up suddenly due to external factors or have been delayed till the last moment. These need to be completed at the latest and require a crisis mode response.

Brett & Kate McKay explain “Quadrant 1 tasks are both urgent and important. They’re tasks that require our immediate attention and also work towards fulfilling our long-term goals and missions in life.These activities generally include deadlines, emergencies, problems and crisis situations such as :

  • Specific emails that require immediate attention (job or business opportunity emails)
  • Tasks with deadlines (assignments, homework, reports, presentations, tax deadline)
  • Car breaks down on the road
  • Client problems
  • Family emergencies
  • Household chores
  • Meetings
  • Any other emergency or crisis

Important and urgent tasks are inevitable. However, when you shift your focus from long-term goals which are important to you to give more attention to Quadrant 1 tasks, then it can be a problem. According to author Stephen Covey, when we invest excessive time only on Quadrant 1 tasks, then it can result in feelings of mental and emotional exhaustion,  burn out and increased stress

While we’ll never be able to completely eliminate urgent and important tasks, we can significantly reduce them with a bit of proactivity and by spending more time in Quadrant 2,” add the McKays.

2. Quadrant Two: Important but Not Urgent (Schedule)

Quadrant 2: Schedule

The second quadrant of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix focuses on the tasks that are  important but are less or not urgent. These activities enable you to focus on your professional and personal goals and development. The essential rule for Quadrant Two is to smartly schedule your time and work on them with equal dedication and effort. When we delay these tasks, they will eventually become urgent, become more challenging or may never be completed. When you distribute your time effectively to do these activities properly and have plenty of time for unforeseen problems, you will boost your productivity, maximize your effectiveness and avoid stress.

Brett & Kate writes “Quadrant 2 tasks are the activities that don’t have a pressing deadline, but nonetheless help you achieve your important personal, school, and work goals… Q2 tasks are typically centered around strengthening relationships, planning for the future, and improving yourself.

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Here are some examples of important but not urgent tasks:

  • Short and long term planning
  • Regular household chores
  • Maintenance projects
  • Family time
  • Professional networking 
  • Personal relationship building
  • Exercising
  • Self development (reading, learning new skills, journaling, meditating etc)
  • Financial planning and creating budgets
  • Pursuing your hobbies

Covey believes that we should invest more time on Quadrant 2 tasks of the Eisenhower Box as these can lead us towards lasting success, fulfillment, and happiness. We often tend to wrongly associate urgency with importance. By properly scheduling the tasks in the second quadrant, you will be able to constantly pursue your goals, which “will be beneficial to you in the long term” explains Develop Good Habits.

The McKays write “Because Q2 activities aren’t pressing for our attention, we typically keep them forever on the backburner of our lives… To overcome our inherent present-bias that prevents us from focusing on Quadrant 2 activities, we must live our lives intentionally and proactively.” Hence, we need to stop running our lives in auto-pilot mode and consciously choose and decide to invest our time in doing what is important to us.

3. Quadrant Three: Not Important but Urgent (Delegate)

Quadrant 3: Delegate

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