Chaos Managed: Using the Eisenhower Matrix to Prioritize Your Day-to-Day

The Eisenhower matrix or the urgent versus important matrix helps you decide and prioritize tasks based on welp, their urgency and importance. It looks something like this:

There are four quadrants:
• In the upper left-hand corner is everything that’s important and urgent and those are the things that you should do now
• In the upper right-hand quadrant,there are things that are important and not urgent and should be schedule
• In the lower left-hand corner are the not important, but urgent tasks and these are things that you should consider delegating
• And then finally, in the lower right-hand corner you have the not urgent, not important stuff that really you shouldn’t be doing at all

When should you use the Eisenhower Matrix?

If you consistently look at your task list for the day and you go, “Oh God, Oh no”, then it’s time to break out the Eisenhower matrix. With it, you can figure out a plan for tackling a crazy to-do list.

It’s particularly great for short term stuff. However, for longer timeframes, you’re going to want to consider a prioritization framework that’s a little bit more strategic.

How do we apply it to our day to day lives as a PM?

Well, the first thing you’re going to do is you are going to gather up your task list. You’re going to go through it one by one and for each task, you’re going to ask two questions…

  • Is it important?
  • Is it urgent?

You’re going to assign each task to a quadrant. Then depending on which quadrant it falls in you’re going to take the following actions:

Eliminate

For items in the eliminate quadrant, you’re going to try to get them out of your sight and cross them off your list. You are not going to work on these things.

These are things like catching up on Slack conversations or browsing Facebook, or doing other silly, mindless, not important, not urgent at all kinds of work.

Delegate

For items in the delegate category, you’re going to see if there is someone else who can do it for you or who can do it better than you. Tasks in this category are something to hand off to the intern or post a freelance job for. These are the things that you want to try to get off your plate if you can.

Schedule

Items in the important, not urgent category get scheduled. These are the things that are kind of strategic and just need to get done, but may not be quite the hair on fire type scenario that is the next category.

Do

This is important and urgent stuff. Items here are the tasks you’re going to want to get done right away. If they’re two minutes or less, just do them right now and then start working on the remaining items.

Applying the Eisenhower Matrix to a To-Do List

Let’s say I have my to-do list here for the day. It looks something like this:
• Outline, edit, and record video
• Talk to Aaron
• Customer support
• Fix UX issue
• Catch up on slack conversations

Funneling tasks

For the first task of outlining/recording/editing this video, I’m going to put that under schedule. It’s important, but not urgent. Same thing with talking to my friend.

Support requests are definitely important and urgent, since customers expect you to get back to them as soon as possible. This one goes in the “do” pile.

As for fix small UX issues, that’s a task that I’m going to try to delegate. It’s not that it’s not important, but just compared to other things right now, it’s a little lower on the importance scale. But…it still needs to get done because if I don’t get it done, then I’m going to watch as my schedule and do categories fill up over time with support requests from this issue.

And finally, I don’t really need to catch up on Slack conversations. I think I’m just going to eliminate that.

My prioritized to-do list now looks like this:

ELIMINATE (not important, not urgent)

Catch up on slack conversations

DELEGATE (not important, urgent)

Fix small UX issues

SCHEDULE(important, not urgent)

Outline, record, edit video Talk with Aaron

DO (important, urgent)

Support requests

Get to Work

I have a plan of attack for the day. I’m going to do my “do” items first. Once I’m done with those, then it’s scheduling items, and then delegating and managing the remaining tasks. And that’s really all there is to it.

Hopefully you find this useful next time your to-do list is overwhelming!

Happy Eisenhower matrix prioritizing!

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