Time Management At Work: Using the Eisenhower Principle to Manage Pressure
In the workplace there are constant sources of pressures coming from every direction, and often it can feel like you’ll never meet your long term goals because you’re so focused on just getting through the day.
But bad habits can be broken, and one of the most common time management tips given is to use the system invented by previous US president Dwight D Eisenhower.
Dwight D Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States, and was a supreme commander of the allied forces during World War II – the definition of a man without enough time on his hands.
His time management tools, particularly the important/urgent matrix, became famous with Americans and then the world. He would sort a task into one of two categories and then into a quadrant that allowed him to mark what needed to be done:
Tasks that require immediate attention and are time sensitive. We tend to focus of these kinds of problems because they have immediate consequences.
Tasks that lead to us being able to achieve our own goals or needs
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
By making a to do list and deciding which are important tasks and which are urgent tasks, we can start to sort jobs into four quadrants:
Important and Urgent
This is the first quadrant, and is sometimes called the “do it” quadrant. In other words, no matter how good your time management skills, these are problems that need immediate attention. Ideally, once you’re more adept at task management, you won’t have any tasks that are both important and urgent, because you’ll have sorted them out before they get to that point. However, there are always unforeseen circumstances that mean your Eisenhower matrix may have something in this important and urgent quadrant.
These are the tasks that you want to get done early, because otherwise they’ll eventually become important and urgent, sometimes known by time managers as “decide” tasks, as you need to decide on a time in the near future to complete them. They also don’t always take much time to complete, because things that fall into the second quadrant are generally there to help you achieve or discover professional goals or personal goals, where a little bit of work goes a long way. It might be going to a networking event, updating social media like LinkedIn or even doing a self care act like getting a massage.
Not Important but Urgent
These are jobs that are going to prevent you from achieving your goals, and this third quadrant is sometimes known as the delegate quadrant, because ideally you can either reschedule or delegate these tasks. It might mean saying no to people or just recognising your own limits so that you have enough time to deal with other more important tasks.
Not Important and not Urgent
This last quadrant is sometimes known as the “delete” section of the eisenhower box, because ideally you can ignore or cancel these. Again, making tough decisions in regards to saying no is important here, so that you can focus on fewer things.
The Eisenhower matrix is used by effective people all over the world to reduce stress at work in a number of ways.
First, using the urgent/important principle means that people can let go of unnecessary tasks, reducing the amount of stress created by having a seemingly endless to do list.
Second, by having a specific time or reasonable date that tasks need to be completed by, people can prioritise tasks so that they keep the important and urgent quadrant exclusively for tasks that come up unexpectedly.
Finally, by using the urgent important matrix, people can see clearly what jobs need to be done when, which can really clear up people’s schedules and make achieving goals for the future much easier.
By using Eisenhower’s principle, you too can be like Eisenhower and deal with a massive task load without feeling stressed – because you know when and how a task needs to be done.