Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States and he lived a very productive life. Not only did he serve two terms from 1953 to 1961, but he also launched programs that led to the development of the Interstate Highway System in the United States, the launch of the internet (DARPA), the exploration of space (NASA), and the peaceful use of alternative energy sources (Atomic Energy Act).
In addition to these accomplishments, he served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, served as the President of Columbia University, and even found time to golf!
He was able to sustain his productivity for decades, not just a few weeks or months. So what was his secret? How did he do it all?
Eisenhower had a smart, but simple, productivity system that is referred to as the "Eisenhower matrix." In a nutshell, it is a decision-making method based on the importance and urgency of what is on your to-do list.
The Eisenhower Matrix: Eliminate Time-Wasting Tasks
All of us understand the basic difference between urgent and important tasks. Urgent tasks require immediate attention because of the consequences that would follow if you did not deal with them. Important tasks, on the other hand, have an outcome that brings you closer to achieving your goals. Note: these "tasks" refer to both professional and personal ones!
Our natural tendency is to focus on unimportant and urgent activities, thus giving us the illusion of productivity. Therefore, it is important to identify which tasks are important and which ones are urgent.
First, make a list of everything you want to do. Then, assort them based on the following categories.
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent or important
If the tasks are urgent and important, do them now. Important but not urgent tasks can be scheduled for later. The urgent but not important activities can be delegated to someone else. Lastly, if a task is neither urgent or important, it should be deleted from your list.
Does This Help Me Accomplish My Goals?
The beauty of this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans and for smaller daily plans. In addition, it forces you to take a step back and ask yourself, "Do I really need to be doing this?" It is easy to use productivity tools to get things done without questioning the relevance of the task itself. Now, you can build a habit of asking yourself if a particular activity will bring you closer to your goals.
Another upside of this tactic is that it is a great way to beat procrastination. This is because you consciously identify what is important and time-sensitive.
You can use the Eisenhower matrix on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis depending on your needs! It works well for both micro- and macro-goals.
Another way to think of it: you get a birds-eye view of what needs to be done.
Have you used the Eisenhower matrix? If so, let me know what you think of it in the comments below!