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

Eisenhower Box

The third quadrant of the Eisenhower Box refers to those activities which may be less important or unimportant to you, but require your urgent attention and action. These tasks are often decided or assigned by others and often prevent you from accomplishing your long term goals. You should ask yourself whether you can delegate Quadrant 3 tasks or reschedule them. One of the prominent factors of these tasks is other people. You may choose to deny doing these tasks by politely saying “no” whenever possible, or you can motivate others to work on their problems and tasks themselves.

Quadrant 3 tasks are activities that require our attention now (urgent), but don’t help us achieve our goals or fulfill our mission (not important),” add the authors from the Art Of Manliness. They write “Most Q3 tasks are interruptions from other people and often involve helping them meet their own goals and fulfill their own priorities.

Some examples of Quadrant 3 activities are:

  • Responding to emails that are urgent but not important 
  • Answering phone calls, text messages or social media messages
  • Certain meetings
  • Needless interruptions from new coworkers while you’re working
  • Requests for favors from team members, friends or family members

Urgency takes center stage here and may even affect our lives. As we spend our time on assumed urgent activities, we focus on tasks that are not meaningful or valuable to us. Investing too much time on Quadrant 3 tasks can make us feel like we are not being able to control our daily life, wasting our time, and not living up to our fullest potential. Covey believes it is best to delegate these tasks as much as possible. 

Brett & Kate McKay explain that Quadrant 3 tasks are “not necessarily bad, but they need to be balanced with your Q2 activities. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling like you’re getting a lot done from day-to-day, while eventually realizing that you’re not actually making any progress in your own long-term goals. That’s a recipe for personal frustration and resentment towards other people.

Read also: 4 Things You Can Do That Will Help You Make The Right Decisions

4. Quadrant Four: Not Important and Not Urgent (Delete)

Quadrant 4: Delete

The final quadrant in the Eisenhower Box is called don’t do or delete because the activities that fall in this category are usually distractions, waste your time and are unproductive. It is best to simply avoid or cancel these tasks, if possible. If you need to engage in such tasks due to external reasons and for other people, try to find your way out of it by politely taking a stand and saying “no.” Not important and not urgent tasks should be cut out as they do not add to your progress or the accomplishment of your goals in any way. However, these activities tend to consume huge chunks of time. Be aware and identify such useless tasks and bad habits that prevent you from reaching your professional and personal goals.

Authors Brett & Kate McKay add “Q4 activities aren’t pressing nor do they help you achieve long-term goals or fulfill your mission as a man. They’re primarily distractions.”

Some common examples of not important and not urgent tasks are:

  • Watching TV for hours
  • Wasting time on the internet without a purpose
  • Scrolling through social media
  • Playing video games
  • Gambling
  • Shopping excessively
  • Lying in bed all day & being lazy

Quadrant 4 of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix focuses on tasks that lead to immediate and excess gratification without making you feel satisfied or fulfilled. Sadly, most of us tend to spend a lot of time in this quadrant. It’s not that we shouldn’t enjoy some leisurely downtime, however, the key is finding a balance that enables you to pursue your goals and relax your mind and body effectively. Too much leisure can certainly affect your mindset and productivity and proactivity.

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, people who invest time in distracting activities, like watching TV, may experience a level of positivity in their mindset and productivity the next day. However, continued engagement in distraction adversely affected their moods and motivation as their productivity reduced significantly in the coming days. While, people who engage in self-development activities like exercise, meditation, yoga, or volunteering tend to be more calm and focused in their work. So, when in moderation, distraction can be okay, but excessive indulgence can be counter-productive.

Instead of aiming to completely rid yourself of Not Urgent and Not Important tasks, try to only spend a very limited amount of time on them. 5% or less of your waking hours is a good goal,” suggest the McKays.

Read also: 10 Ways To Develop Logical Thinking Skills

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