The 4-Step Eisenhower Time-Management System Is a Brilliant Way to Cut Unnecessary Work and Boost Productivity

Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

A few months ago, I shared Steve Jobs’s formula for holding effective meetings. It was certainly a boon, given the tendency for most businesses to glut schedules with meeting after meeting, often with little purpose. The other side of that coin is productivity — how we manage our time when we’re not forced into a room (virtual or in-person) discussing topics that could be hashed out over email.

In most cases, we think of productivity as an in-task effort. How do we do complete X task more efficiently so we can move on to the next thing? That assumes, however, that we have the right tasks lined up. Enter Eisenhower’s Matrix of Time and Task Management, a throwback to the post-WWII president who was keen on efficiency.

As we slide into 2022 with a heap of business goals and a laundry list of tasks, let’s place them on Eisenhower’s matrix so we know how/when to tackle them for greatest efficiency.

You can either build a matrix and slot each task into the appropriate quadrant, like the image shown here, or you can ask two questions to help determine where the task should fall:

  1. Would you consider the task to be urgent or not urgent? (That is, is it time-sensitive?)
  2. Would you consider the take to be important or not important? (That is, is it critical to achievement of a primary goal or critical priority?)

If the task is both urgent and important, do it right away or very soon.

If the task is not urgent but important, decide whether to prioritize it and do it soon (after urgent and important tasks) or delegate the task to someone else.

If the task is urgent but not important, delegate it to someone else.

If the task is not urgent or important, then delete it (cut it from your list).

I like to do this daily but you could easily do it weekly or monthly — depending on your list of tasks. Regardless, I think it important to keep this rubric in mind as you shuffle around goals, tasks, and to-dos in the new year. As you gain familiarity with this system, it will become part of your analytical and preparatory process — you won’t even need to map this out as a separate activity as you will have trained your mind to slow tasks into one of the four quadrants.

And, thanks to the late Dwight D., you’ll be well on your way to achieving what really matters.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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