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Increase Productivity and Prevent Burnout with this Time-Management Tool

Posted: April 20th, 2021

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.

In the face of rising workplace burnout, the Eisenhower Matrix offers a simple framework to help you juggle multiple plates and manage competing priorities. 

The “Eisenhower Method” stems from a quote attributed to 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.”

This tool helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or eliminate from your schedule completely.

Eisenhower table

1. Quadrant of Demand: urgent and important

These tasks are urgent and important. Tasks and duties that require your immediate personal attention. If they are not dealt with right away, their consequences will be noticed immediately. Ex.: crises, deadlines, emergencies. 

Approach: Just Do It! Prioritize actions that are in this category. However, plan ahead to keep quadrant 1 as empty as possible. Doing so will minimize emergencies that disrupt your life and work.

 2. Quadrant of Growth

These tasks are important but not urgent. Important tasks are activities that contribute to your long0term vision, values, and goals.  It is important to prioritize and schedule this tasks to prevent a last-minute rush and help you stay on track on what’s really important. Ex: relationships, planning, recreation, health & wellness, personal development

Approach: For maximum efficiency, it is best if the majority of your time is spent on important tasks before they become urgent. Consider what is presently happening in other quadrants. Plan to schedule important tasks at non-urgent times. Designate and protect time for your personal needs. The goal is to focus 80% of your attention on the Quadrant of Growth, execute on critical tasks in Quadrant  of Demands, and eliminate anything that doesn’t positively contribute to the outcomes you would like to achieve in Quadrants of Distraction and Escape.

3. Quadrant of distractions

 These tasks are urgent but not important; oftentimes associated with achieving someone else’s targets.  Ex.: interruptions, meetings, checking emails, answering phone calls.

Approach: Address the feeling of urgency and/or delegate

Part I. Address the feeling of urgency. Some things create a feeling of urgency, but they aren’t urgent nor important. Sometimes they need to be moved to a different quadrant or delegated.

Ex. The phone ringing feels urgent but most of the calls are not important. Should I answer it or use other strategies such as: schedule important calls in box 2; have voicemail manage incoming calls, or set up a special ring for family, buyers, and other important calls to reach me. 

Part II. Delegate tasks to others.  Ask yourself is it important that you do this task? Is there a better use of your time? Who can do it for you?

4. Quadrant of Escape

These tasks are not urgent and not important. Though these tasks may help you escape reality short-term, they are not value added and only waste time. Remove these tasks from your to-do list and you will be surprised how much more you can get done in a day. Ex. Trivia, browsing social media, TV,

Approach: Analyze the Quadrant of Escape. Is it a process issue or a person issue? 

  • If a task is a process issue, see if task can be eliminated through process automation and optimization ( ex. select appropriate tool/approach for a job, eliminate task redundancy & unnecessary procedures, consolidate communication, etc.)
  • If a task is an unconscious habit, analyze what is driving that behavior. Items that fall into the not important & not urgent quadrant may just be old habits that need to be replaced. However, they might be serving a personal need that is not readily apparent. Any behavior we engage in is serving us in some way, otherwise we wouldn’t engage in it. Ask yourself what is a reason you do these things? Are they a waste of time or do they meet a personal need such as introspection time, connection, or comfort? Do they help you soothe and numb painful feelings? Once you recognize the need, plan a more effective way to meet it.

Eisenhower Matrix Implementation Tips

  • Try limiting yourself to no more than eight tasks per quadrant. Before adding another one, complete the most important one first. Remember: It is not about collecting but finishing tasks.
  • Always maintain only one list for both business and private tasks. That way you will never be able to complain about not having done anything for your family or yourself at the end of the day.
  • Define your priorities in the beginning of the day. And in the end, reflect back using “Did I do my best____” framework and enjoy the feeling of completion.
  • Don’t get blindsided by urgent tasks and get stuck fighting fires. Just because the task is time-sensitive and pressing, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is important. Important tasks are paramount to growth and contribute to the bigger picture, and they’re often set aside when urgent tasks muscle their way in. We get stuck in putting up  fires and doing busy work. Therefore sacrificing opportunities for personal growth and long-term success. To determine if  task is truly important, ask yourself two questions: Would the repercussions be significant if this task wasn’t completed, and can you delegate this task?  If you can eliminate a task from your to-do list or delegate it without affecting the desired outcome, then it doesn’t belong in Quadrant 1 and should be approached accordingly.

Download this Free worksheet to help you implement this principle in your daily life!

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