What Is Eisenhower's Urgent vs. Important Principle?
Updated July 21, 2022
While every task in your workday is important, prioritizing which ones you should accomplish before others can be a challenge. Eisenhower's urgent vs important principle provides a way to organize tasks based on their nature and importance to help improve productivity. Understanding how to use this principle can not only help you get important tasks done, but can also help prevent procrastination and help you accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively. In this article, we discuss what Eisenhower's urgent vs important principle is and how it can help you with your duties in the workplace.
What is Eisenhower's urgent vs. important principle?
The Eisenhower's urgent vs. important principle involves evaluating any task in terms of its urgency and importance before placing them in one of the four quadrants of Eisenhower's matrix. Dividing tasks by labeling them as either urgent tasks or important tasks helps distinguish which tasks should be your first priority and create understanding about what to do with any tasks that you cannot work on immediately. Both urgent and important tasks may relate to business matters, personal matters or sometimes both.
What are urgent tasks?
Urgent tasks are one or multiple tasks that need attention or reaction right then. Some examples of urgent tasks are:
Issues that face immediate impact
A crisis, whether personal or within a business
A project with an immediate deadline
Unavoidable interruptions, such as emails or phone calls
Urgent tasks require a response or immediate action. These are the items on a to-do list that are usually written and done first when presented.
What are important tasks?
Important tasks are tasks that usually relate to an individual's long-term goals. Some examples of important tasks include:
Capability improvement or improving limits
Researching, planning and testing
Important tasks are tasks that attribute value to long-term goals or an overall mission. Some important tasks may also be urgent, but they typically do not require immediate attention.
The Eisenhower matrix
This matrix allows you to prioritize your tasks. Here are the four quadrants of the Eisenhower matrix:
Urgent and important
Urgent and important tasks are tasks you should do as soon as possible. Examples of urgent and important tasks can include:
An urgent call from family
Any measure taken to uphold or reinforce safety or company policy
An incoming call from any member of a board of directors or important stakeholder
Outside media reporting, such as an interview or filming for company-related production
Not urgent but important
Not urgent but important tasks are important tasks that you can wait to complete. These tasks should have a due date, but you may schedule and complete them in the future. Examples of not urgent but important tasks may include:
A set obligation to exercise
Study related to a particular project venture
Time with family
Improving a personal hobby
Investing in a new hobby
Urgent but not important
Urgent but not important tasks are tasks you should delegate to another team member to complete if possible. Examples of urgent but not important tasks may include:
Unexpected texts or phone calls
Coworkers who ask for work-related advice
Requests for letters of recommendation
Unannounced family requests
Not urgent and not important
Not urgent and not important tasks are tasks you do not need to prioritize. These are tasks you may complete when no other tasks are available. Examples of not urgent and not important tasks may include:
Mindlessly browsing the internet
Watching TV or online videos
Playing video games or web games
Browsing social media channels
Shopping sprees for nonessential items
Playing card games
Related: How To Improve Employee Productivity
Advantages of Eisenhower's urgent vs. important principle
There are some advantages of using the Eisenhower's urgent vs important principle. Some of these advantages may include:
Using the Eisenhower's urgent vs important principle can aid in preventing procrastination by aligning your tasks in a processable, orderly way. Understanding where tasks go on your priority list can help prevent procrastination and boost your work efficiency in the future.
Prioritizing your tasks
When you properly use this principle, you may achieve more with your time and your work. You can do urgent tasks according to their need while also ensuring that you don't forget about important tasks.
Creating a balanced workday
With the Eisenhower matrix, you can address tasks with their importance in mind. This is so that you do not completely schedule your workday with completing urgent tasks, but achieve a balance of tasks. This ensures that important tasks have a due date.
Tips for using Eisenhower's urgent vs. important principle
Here are some tips to consider when using Eisenhower's urgent vs important principle in your workplace:
Create a to-do list
Creating a to-do list after you divide your tasks using Eisenhower's matrix will help you remember which tasks need to be completed first. It can help you remember tasks, preventing you from forgetting important or time-sensitive tasks. It also ensures that you use all the work you've done to create your Eisenhower's matrix effectively.
Limit your task count
While the Eisenhower matrix can prioritize many tasks, consider limiting your task count to that which you can complete in your current workday. This helps you stay on task and within a realistic task expectation. Limiting your task amount may also make the entire task prioritization effort easier.
Prepare the evening or night before
Consider preparing your matrix and lists the night or morning before your workday. This allows you to best utilize your time towards completing your tasks rather than dedicating time to planning.
Related: How To Make a Daily Work Schedule
Track delegated tasks
When delegating tasks to others because of the principle, consider keeping track of how the delegated task is progressing. This will send a positive message to the employee who received your delegation, and may help the delegated task progress even further. Keeping track of your task progress can give you the opportunity to offer advice to others or answer questions.
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