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.

Related: 10 Simple Ways To Be More Productive At Work

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.

Read more: How To Be More Productive Using the Eisenhower Matrix

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

  • Building relationships

  • Learning direction

  • Implementing strategy

  • 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.

Related: 20 Ways To Improve Your Work Environment

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

  • Tax deadlines

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

  • Car maintenance

  • 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

  • Employee emails

  • 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

  • Gambling

  • 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:

Preventing procrastination

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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