How to create and use the Eisenhower Matrix
The former U.S. president knew a thing or two about prioritizing and making decisions
At a Glance: Reorganize your to-do list by evaluating each item based on urgency and importance. There might even be a few things you can totally forget about.
Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 57 seconds
Have you ever heard of the Eisenhower Matrix? It’s an amazingly simple approach to decision-making that helps you prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Developed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the principle is guided by his famous philosophy that "what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
Try it out yourself to determine what needs to get done and when — or not at all.
Step 1: Grab a blank piece of paper and draw a four-quadrant grid with enough room to write a list in each quadrant. At the top of the box write “Urgent” and “Not Urgent”; along the side of the box write “Important” and “Not important.”
Step 2: Fill in each box based on the instructions below.
Upper left (Urgent & Important): “Do first”
These items are urgent and important. They must be done on the day you’re writing them down. Make a plan to get these done today! This might be an assignment you put off and is due today, or a bill that needs to be paid immediately.
Upper right (Not Urgent & Important): “Schedule”
In this box, place items that are important but less urgent. Then schedule a plan for how to best get them done. Major project due in two weeks that needs your attention sooner rather than later? Make a note of it here.
Lower left (Urgent & Not Important): “Delegate”
This box is for tasks that are urgent but less important. Identify someone in your life who can handle it for you, such as a family member, close friend or colleague. If a request lands on you at work but you simply don’t have the time to do it well, go ahead and identify a colleague who could take on the task. Just be sure to follow up on the status to ensure it gets completed sufficiently.
Lower right (Not Urgent & Not Important): “Don’t do”
Everything that is not as important and not as urgent goes here. Exciting news — you can forget about these! Don’t waste your time on things that aren’t necessary. Habitually checking social media or staying up late to catch the most recent installment of your favorite show should probably go on this list.
Step 3: Listen to what your matrix is telling you. Your to-do list deserves a critical eye, and your returned sanity will thank you.
Making and sticking to a chore chart can seem like just another item on your constantly expanding to-do list. But once you actually put it on paper and get your children in the habit, your family life will run smoother and your children will learn responsibility along the way.