Urgent or Important?

Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general, commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and the United States’ 34th President was well-known for his time management skills. 

In his 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, he said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Do you often realize it is time to head home, yet you feel you have not accomplished much at work? Or do you stay up late because you still have a lot of work to do? How do you prioritize the tasks before you? 

Maybe you have heard about Eisenhower’s task management principle but by another name and with some tweaking here and there for repackaging. 

What is Eisenhower’s task management principle?

It is called the Eisenhower Matrix. It is a method of prioritizing your tasks based on their importance. You tag all your tasks in four categories:

  ❗ Important and Urgent – DO

✔️ Important but Not Urgent – SCHEDULE

👍 Not Important but Urgent – DELEGATE

❌ Not Important and Not Urgent – DELETE

How do you classify?

FIRST QUAD – Important and Urgent  

Act Now

These tasks deserve your attention for the day. Tasks need to be completed as soon as possible because many times, these tasks have deadlines, and missing them will cause penalties or undesired consequences.

Sometimes tasks under Important and Urgent were formerly under “Important But Not Urgent” but were continuously put aside until they reached crisis level. Instances like bringing your car to the dealer’s shop for its regular Preventive Maintenance Schedule. You pushed the schedule back several times until you notice your garage floor has oil leaks. Or you delayed your scheduled annual physical examination until you suddenly felt continuous pain somewhere in your body. It now becomes Urgent!

If your days are filled with the Important and Urgent because of tasks you procrastinated on, you know you are not handling your Second Quad right. Continuous firefighting on procrastinated tasks will eventually burn you out. 

SECOND QUAD – Important but Not Urgent  

Put A Date And Don’t Delay

These are your long-term goals that are important but have not put target dates for them. Some of these activities are online courses you want to take to upskill or reskill, prospecting to expand your business relationships, business planning or planning a new venture, team building, annual medical examination, car preventive maintenance, etc. 

Since these activities may not have target dates, they often end up getting set aside. However, if you have classified an activity as Important, it is wise to set a date, invest time, energy, attention, and conscious effort in them. 

When Important tasks are scheduled and acted upon carefully and conscientiously, they will never turn up under your urgent tasks. 

Schedule these tasks at a time when you have accomplished your tasks under “Important and Urgent.” 

THIRD QUAD – Not Important but Urgent   

Train and Delegate

These tasks need not be critically done by you but can be delegated to other people, such as phone calls, email management, travel bookings, social media management, social invitations, etc.

Delegation is one way to work smart. Do not micromanage your things to do. Instead, examine your list and qualify. You can ask an assistant, or if you can afford to get one, pay someone to do your tedious Third Quad tasks.

Your life will not crumble if you train someone to do the tedious tasks. This delegation will free you up to do your First and Second Quad tasks. 

FOURTH QUAD – Not Important and Not Urgent  

Delete

These activities are complete time-wasters and should not be done at all if you want to be productive. Activities such as random surfing, video games, movie watching online, etc. are done when time allows or to relax after heavy activity. 

TAKE AWAY

Take a deep look at your activities now and qualify them according to the Eisenhower Box. How are you spending your time? In what box do most of your tasks fall? 

Only you can tell which is important to you. Make it a habit to use the Eisenhower Box in classifying all your activities and deciding what task to prioritize. 

And lastly, practice practice practice! That will make the habit perfect. 

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