Why Everything You Know About Productivity is Wrong

The situation described above is also known as the Mere Urgency Effect, which says we tend to take on tasks with shorter deadlines and smaller completion windows. Why? Simply because they need to bed one as soon as possible. We choose them over less urgent tasks, even if they less urgent ones are more important and yield greater rewards.
This makes us fixated on task duration rather than the long-term benefit. And when this problem comes up in project management, no important long-term issues can get to the forefront. We neglect them until the last minute. Once their turn comes, they’re suddenly urgent and cause nothing but stress and needless overtime.
Rory Vaden, author and Self-Discipline Strategist, claims that to-do lists and time management techniques focus too much on efficiency. Most productivity methods will aim to make you quicker, opting for a more lucrative output. But they merely give you more time in the day for more short-term decision making. To help you combat this issue, and teach you a new way of problem-solving, we want to introduce you to the Eisenhower Matrix.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

Eisenhower Matrix in Microsoft Outlook's Add-in TaskCracker Now Available in German Share Article The popular MS Outlook task management add-in TaskCracker, which helps people manage activities based on the classic Eisenhower Matrix approach, is now offered in German. Wish you (and me) a powerful and more effective to-do. Thanks for your time. Do encourage me to write more. EDIT: Its Feb 21st and Ike has been the best. I use it everyday. Download this app from Microsoft Store for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile. See screenshots, read the latest customer reviews, and compare ratings for Priority Tasks – Eisenhower Matrix Planner for Productivity & better Focus on the Goals: notes with to do list, time management. TaskCracker is another view for your tasks in a form of Eisenhower Matrix which enables you to move your tasks around with Drag and Drop. This way, you can see a map of your weekly activity, visually and better organize your time. Here is how it looks: Your Outlook Tasks have a lot of features that help you organize, prioritize and sort your tasks. Oct 16, 2013 TaskCracker is another view for your tasks in a form of Eisenhower Matrix which enables you to move your tasks around with Drag and Drop. This way, you can see a map of your weekly activity, visually and better organize your time. Here is how it looks: Your Outlook Tasks have a lot of features that help you organize, prioritize and sort your tasks.

This strategy stemmed from a quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
In the simplest terms, the Eisenhower Matrix is a guideline for effective decision making. Its brilliance lies in learning to differentiate which tasks are important and which are urgent. As Vader said, focus on: “What can I do today, to make tomorrow easier for myself?
The Matrix allows you to make long-term strategic plans. You learn how to focus on the bigger picture instead of tasks that seem urgent but have no overarching benefit for the project.

Embrace Your Weakness

Before breaking down the Eisenhower Matrix, we feel the need to emphasize:
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
As with every new productivity method you want to adopt, perfecting the Eisenhower Matrix is going to take a lot of trial and error. Find a way to make the first few weeks or months easier. Download resource materials, get your bullet journals or rely on timesheet app like Clockify (both offline and online) to track your progress.
If managing a team, schedule tasks and timelines with your team members with Instagantt to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to priorities.
Use any tool at your disposal to make the transition as smooth as possible. We all learn differently, and adapting to a new workflow is no different than learning a new language. Even the lauded Agile method needs well over a year or two to be implemented properly.

How the Eisenhower Matrix Works

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As John Green of the popular Youtube channel Vlog brothers sums it up:
“Productivity need not be about work, or maximizing output or whatever. There are lots of ways to be productive. To me, productivity is mostly a matter of recognizing that time is what we have.”
Stop thinking about speed, and start thinking about purpose. To begin making truly smarter, more conscious choices when it comes to project tasks, you need to know the difference between important and urgent.
The Important
- One way to differentiate between important and unimportant tasks is by asking: “Will the project suffer if this task isn’t done?” Important tasks are those with long-lasting consequences or results.If others’ work depends on its completion, or it has a major impact on the project, the task mustn’t be skipped.
The Urgent
- Urgency focuses on time and efficiency. These are tasks with clear deadlines. Whether something is urgent or not will depend on various circumstances (depending on what the project entails). However, keep in mind that your schedule’s flexibility and project goals also play a role.
Once you figure out the urgency/importance difference, the second step is sorting your tasks into four groups according to the following:

  • The IMPORTANT and URGENT (DO)
    Green illustrated this with a simple example of your house being on fire. It’s something you NEED to do right away. Less catastrophically speaking, these tasks are usually the ones we leave until the last minute or come from unforeseen circumstances.

  • The IMPORTANT but NOT URGENT (DECIDE)
    Another simple example would be long-term personal and professional goals, such as career advancement, writing a book, or exercising (unless there is a serious health issue, in which case, it’s urgent). The general rule for this group is to schedule time to work on these tasks. Putting them off will just bump them up until they become urgent, or never addressed.

  • The UNIMPORTANT but URGENT (DELEGATE)
    These can be smaller, menial, everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, paying bills, or going through email. You can easily delegate or automate them. Think of parents who send their kids to the store for eggs and milk while they cook lunch. Or in our case, holding a project update meeting, for example. If you have more important work, assigning someone just as informed to hold the meeting will help in the long run.

  • The UNIMPORTANT and NOT URGENT (DELETE)
    Activities or tasks that fall into this category are usually distractions. For example, redesigning the website page because the color scheme is off. It’s unimportant and not urgent as it won’t affect customer retention.

For those of you who are visual types, the Eisenhower Matrix can be represented with a simple box.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the important/urgent filter changes depending on your projects and goals. The Eisenhower Matrix is a recipe for long-term problem solving and avoiding the Mere Urgency trap every project is bound to fall into.

The magic of “NO”

Along with learning how to use the Matrix, you will have to brush up on your rejection skills. For example, if you’re a CEO of a startup on the rise, then your hands will be full of projects and tasks relating to it. A few friends or acquaintances might contact you via LinkedIn to help introduce them to some of your new partners, or hire them.
If we apply theEisenhower Matrix to this scenario, this activity is neither important nor urgent for you or your project. So instead of telling them you’ll be in touch, or spending hours emailing or talking to them, you simply answer “no”. Well, rather you craft a very polite email letting them know that for now, you’re unable to help as you have far too many things on your plate.
Rejection is a big part of the filtering process. Activities that end up in the fourth Eisenhower group are the ones most likely to be discarded (ex. Deleting your junk mail instead of sorting through it). And if you keep moving a task into the fourth group week in and week out, then it wasn’t important or urgent, to begin with.
As tasks move up and down the priority ladder, don’t forget to keep everyone up to date on the changes and how they affect the project as a whole.

In Conclusion

When mastered, the Eisenhower Matrix is a powerful tool. It is a method tailored for those who have goals they never seem to get to because there aren’t enough hours in the day. With the Matrix, you reevaluate your priorities, and as both Green and Vaden emphasize, learn how to focus on what is important over fake urgency. Say goodbye to putting out fires as they come up, and stretching yourself thin on projects. Placing the bigger picture in the foreground, the Eisenhower Matrix proves to be one of the best self-care methods for ailing projects and teams.

Written by Marko Maric:
Marko Maric is a marketer and a blogger. He mostly covers topics revolving around business, marketing, and productivity. Marko currently works at Clockify - a free time tracking tool.

  • Published on
    March 28, 2019
  • Updated on
  • Read time
    8 minutes
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Stephanie is a hard worker when it comes to her professional responsibilities. Pushing through the day, she makes sure she gets done what she’s expected to, often more. Sitting late at work, pulling an all-nighter, missing personal obligations for professional commitments is all too common an experience for her.

And all the important family commitments that she has missed is an entirely different story on its own. But all this is now taking a toll on her health (both mental and physical), and her productivity.

So, what exactly is missing from her life? You guessed it – Eisenhower Matrix.

Often times, you may not realize it but the only thing you need in your life is a little bit of organization and prioritization of what needs to be done to fulfill the overlapping commitments.

With that being said, you’re probably thinking it’s not that difficult after all. You’re wrong and right at the same time. Wrong in a way that if you think just randomly making a to-do list is going to work wonders for you, it will work, but not in a mind-blowing way.

And you’re right, with a little bit more effort and by using Eisenhower Matrix, your life will get a whole lot better.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

Eisenhower Matrix is a method of prioritizing your tasks on the basis of their urgency. It helps to determine the activities which are important and the ones which do not deserve your attention at all. The brainchild behind the famous Eisenhower Matrix is Dwight D. Eisenhower.

One of his famous quotes is, “most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent.”

This quote sets the basis for Dwight’s personal time management too.

Coming towards the matrix, the matrix basically categorizes your tasks into 4 quadrants according to what you need to do at a particular time during your day.

These 4 quadrants are:

  1. Do
  2. Decide
  3. Delegate
  4. Eliminate

1. Do

The first quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix, Do, consists of your most important tasks. The activities which need to be done urgently. The tasks with a deadline approaching or the ones that cannot be delayed generally fall in this category.

For putting tasks in this category, you need to thoroughly analyze your priorities first and then decide if it fits with the do it now criteria. If the task needs to be done within a day, or no longer than the next day, it is an urgent task. Do.it.now!

Another way to put this in context is to keep in mind the famous ‘eat the frog first principle’ of Mark Twain, connotating that you should do your most urgent tasks for the day the first thing in the morning.

Eisenhower Matrix Using Outlook

Let’s take a concrete work example here to make things easy for you. At the end of each week, you’re delegated with the responsibility of providing a comprehensive report to your manager. Now, your weekends on Friday. It’s Thursday morning already and you haven’t prepared the report. Does this classify as an urgent task? Absolutely!

2. Decide

The 2nd quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix is Decide. It constitutes of the tasks which are important, but not necessarily urgent. This could include an array of responsibilities ranging from professional emails, follow-ups, to more personal appointments and commitments.

Tasks in this quadrant need to be scheduled for some other time. Generally, these tasks are in line with your long-term goals and contribute to your growth. A common everyday example could be to exercise. You know it’s crucial to good health, but you cannot dedicate time to it. So, you need to decide the time when you’re ready to hit it.

Schedule tasks in a way that they do not transfer to the ‘urgent’ category. Make sure you have enough time to execute them while they still fit in this division.

Also read: How to Write Company OKRs for Effective Goal-Setting?

3. Delegate

3rd quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix is Delegate. This category refers to the tasks which are not important, but urgent. Although it sounds counter-intuitive because naturally, your first instinct would be that aren’t tasks which are urgent, important too? Not necessarily!

Eisenhower Matrix Urgency Importance

These activities generally give you the deception of being important, while in reality, they don’t really contribute much towards your productivity. You need to decide whether you need to reschedule it or if someone else can do it for you.

Some of the examples can include scheduling interviews, replying to certain emails, or team meetings that can be conducted by someone else, while you’re busy executing your quadrant 1 activities.

4. Eliminate

The last category of the Eisenhower Matrix is Eliminate. These consists of tasks that are essentially your productivity killers. They do not contribute at all towards your goals. Identify these activities and eliminate them to give your productivity a boost.

Common examples of these activities include mindless surfing on social media, constantly checking your phone for calls or messages, playing video games, or general activities that you use to procrastinate.

See also:

How to use the Eisenhower Matrix for Time Management

If by now you’re wondering your life will magically become organized by using this matrix, it’s not that easy! But by putting in a little bit of effort, you can get yourself on track.

First things first, you need to classify your urgent and important activities. For doing so, you need to set your priorities right and define urgency levels.

Your urgent tasks are usually the ones which have a time constraint attached to them. These activities have a ‘do it now’ written all over them and require your utmost attention.

On the other hand, your important tasks are generally long term and rather goal-oriented. Generally, they don’t give you immediate results and are more focused on making better long-term decisions.

After you’re done classifying your urgent and important tasks, the next few things you need to do to fully utilize the potential of Eisenhower matrix for time management are:

1. Give Color Codes to Quadrants

Assign color codes to your quadrants to quickly help you understand the gravity of the situation. By allocating colors, you can get a quick glance at what needs to be done next. These color codes also help you to prioritize your tasks to make informed decisions.

For example; the do quadrant can be colored red to indicate the urgency of tasks.

2. Categorize Your Professional and Personal To-dos

To avoid over-lapping commitments, make separate matrices for your professional and personal tasks. This will steer you clear for what lies ahead and will greatly influence how you manage your time. A trick here can be to dedicate distinct hours of the day for both kinds of commitments and see how that works for you.

3. Limit the Number of Items Per Quadrant

Adding too many items per quadrant will over-complicate things and the purpose of using the Eisenhower matrix for time management will be lost. To optimize it, limit the number of actions to 7 or 8. That way you won’t be overwhelmed with what you need to do.

See also:

Using a Project Management Tool to Implement Eisenhower Matrix

Let’s just admit the fact that if you don’t opt for professional tools for time management, you’re missing out on a lot. For this matrix to work like a magic wand, you need a project management tool. At this juncture, let us introduce you to nTask.

Use nTask to manage your time effectively without any fear of procrastination. Following features of the tool will help you to improve your productivity drastically and eliminate time wasters:

  • Checklists: begin by listing down your to-dos in the form of a checklist. This will set the basis for identifying your professional and personal to-dos and will help you to define what you should be working on next
  • Category: once you’re done making a checklist and creating respective tasks, you can associate distinct categories to make things clear for yourself or your team. The categories are completely customizable and can be used in any way the user wants
  • Priority Level: finally, assign priority levels to your tasks according to their urgency. These priority levels will facilitate in deciding the appropriate quadrant of the matrix your tasks fit in and what should be your next course of action
  • Timesheets: for analyzing the time you or your team spends on high or low priority tasks, you can easily log hours in timesheets and later evaluate it to decide where you need improvements

Gantt Charts in nTask Vs. Eisenhower Matrix

Since we have already reiterated some of the variables of the Eisenhower Matrix, it is time to see things at a deeper level.

Recall the following quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix – i.e.

  • Do
  • Decide
  • Delegate
  • Eliminate
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Most of the time, some tasks have an urgent nature. To that end, there may not be any urgency during the initial phases of a project, but it could happen anytime. Imagine falling back on a deadline due to un-deliverables or additional requests from the client.

In that case, the Eisenhower Matrix workflow goes through metamorphosis phase. This happens because you are doing things differently due to last minute or mid-term project requirements on behalf of anyone up the food change.

In such instances, remember that the quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix remain the same. The only thing that changes is task dependencies and many other intricacies.

Speaking of task dependencies, we added interactive Gantt Chart user experience to nTask. It is a powerful built-in feature where you can see these dependencies in grid view mode. You can interlink any number of tasks with others if one task is dependent on something else.

At times, these dependencies become part of the project because of the nature of milestones. For instance, the developers may be required to deliver on a feature, but they can’t proceed if they don’t have a design/ framework to go by with. In such scenarios, dependencies play a vital role.

Moving on, issue elimination is extremely convenient in the nTask. Since “Elimination” is part of the Eisenhower Matrix quadrants, you can mitigate issues by identifying them and handing them over to an assignee in your team.

  • Manage and prioritize your most important work with nTask!

    Use it for personal or team productivity. nTask is free and includes unlimited tasks and checklists.

Sounds complicated, right?

Eisenhower Matrix Outlook Login

Well, when you stumble upon any number of problems, you can raise Red Flags and create issues. Afterward, all you need to do is assign someone to that “issue” so that the problem can be rectified on time.

This is the best way of ensuring smooth workflow while specific people work to “eliminate” the issue in the background.

Managing workflow based on the Eisenhower Matrix was just one part of the equation. A lot of other elements come into play during the lifetime of a project. You need to account for unforeseen circumstances, such as vacations, sick leaves, and other disasters that team members bestow upon project managers from time to time!

So, what are you waiting for? Use the Eisenhower matrix now and maximize your productivity now. Let us know how it works for you.

Eisenhower Matrix In Outlook

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