The Eisenhower Matrix: How to Finally Conquer Your To Do List

Do you ever think about our 34th President, Dwight D. Eishenhower? Probably not. He’s not a stand out name like Washington or Kennedy. I actually think about him quite a bit. Or, let’s say, I am certainly grateful that he created the Eisenhower Matrix. While this term seems dry and boring, this technique will RADICALLY change the way you approach your life. Have you ever tried the Eisenhower Matrix? Leave a comment at the end of the post!


The Eisenhower Matrix: How To Finally Conquer Your To Do List


This time management technique has at it’s heart Dwight’s belief that “what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Re-read that.

What is truly important to you? Writing your novel? Spending time every day reading to your kids? Now, are you actually carving out time to do the things that you say are important? Probably not. I know I certainly didn’t in the past. I know many of my clients don’t. Maybe it’s human nature. Maybe we all need to think a little more about President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix (often called The Covey Matrix because he loved the concept) includes four quadrants:

  • Urgent and Important (Q1)
  • Important but not Urgent (Q2)
  • Urgent but Not Important (Q3)
  • Not Urgent and Not Important (Q4)

This graphic from Timewiser does a great job of summing up the Eisenhower Matrix.

You’ll see from my examples below that the Eisenhower Matrix applies to everyone-not just business types but stay at home moms too!


Eishenhower Matrix


Using the Eisenhower Matrix

Quadrant 1:  Urgent and Important/Do Now

It can’t be helped. Emergencies happen. Like the time I was cleaning my house and got the phone call that my son had fallen on the playground at preschool and needed stitches. Yep. I dropped everything and took care of the crisis. This is an example of a quadrant one activity-urgent, important, and you’ve got to take care of it now.

But be careful. Oftentimes we think something is urgent when it’s really not. Or, truthfully, it may be someone else’s emergency but not our own. For example, you’ve just started dinner when your child FREAKS OUT that they need posterboard for a project due the day after tomorrow. Not. An. Emergency

Quadrant 2: Important but Not Urgent

This is my favorite quadrant!! When I work with my time management clients I tell them this is the quadrant they want to live in. This is where you accomplish your goals and dreams. Whatever is most near and dear to your heart, schedule it, make time for it. Do not let the other quadrants take over!

Whatever is most near and dear to your heart, schedule it, make time for it. Click To Tweet

Quadrant 3: Not Important But Urgent

Often this quadrant is hard to define. Quadrant 3 is made up of interruptions, distractions, and other people’s emergencies. This is the delegate quadrant. My go to example is: neighbor C calls frantic because she needs a crockpot for tomorrow’s meal and she doesn’t have one. This is the perfect time to delegate. In this exact instance I asked my son to go get our crockpot and walk it over to neighbor C.

Here’s the thing. Being nice and helpful to others is important to me.  Ninety-nine percent of the time when someone needs help I am there. But at times I have to politely say no or delegate. Otherwise there would never be any time for the goals and dreams time I mentioned.

Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent

If you’re in quadrant 4, you’re just wasting time. You are not in control. Perhaps social media is, or your email, or Netflix. These are rabbit holes from which you may not emerge until hours later and then realize that the things you wanted to accomplish today are not going to happen.

“But I like Pinterest!” you say. “Facebook helps me connect with my far away family!” you say. I like Pinterest too. I’m on Facebook every day. I happen to absolutely love foreign language crime shows on Netflix. Here’s the thing-these are only time wasters if you are blindly trolling Instagram, for instance. It’s the vegging out with no end time in mind that makes it a time waster.

I’ve seen plenty of clients who are avoiding their goals and dreams (going out of our comfort zone can be scary!) and just wasting time in quadrant 4. Don’t let that be you.

Instead, choose a time that you are going to check in with Facebook. Then let that be it for the day. Better yet, choose to bind this activity to something that has a definite start and end time. For instance, only look on Pinterest while waiting in carpool for your kids. When they get in the car, you’re done.

It’ll Become Habit

I teach my clients to use a Mind Map to brain dump everything they need and want to accomplish. (See my post all about Mind Mapping.) Then I instruct them to identify which tasks are Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4. This instantly shows you what needs to be one first.

This was my Monday morning activity for a long time. Now, I just instantly think of tasks in terms of which quadrant they fit into. I know I need to tackle my quadrant 1 activities first. I make sure I leave time for the important things in my world (Q2). I’m so much better than I used to be at identifying which tasks I can delegate. Finally, when I do waste time, I don’t stress about it. I’ve accomplished my Q1 and Q2 tasks. You’ll find me most nights in bed at 9:30 watching one show of “Dark.” (It’s the German “Stranger Things.” Watch it!)

Have you ever tried the Eisenhower Matrix? Let me know below!

Want More Time Management Nerd Stuff? Read These:

6 Things You Think You Must Do Now (But Can Really Let Slide!)

5 Things You Miss in Life with Poor Time Management

5 Ways Tracking Your Time Will Make Your Life More Peaceful

Follow Daria Harvey:

Professional Home Organizer

I'm so excited you stopped by my blog! I'm passionate about helping others achieve peaceful lives through organization. I want to help you have less stress and more time for the things you love! Let's get started!

5 Responses

  1. Chicago Spaces in Order

    Great blog post! I’ve heard of this concept but didn’t know the name. Thanks for sharing!

    • Daria Harvey

      Thanks so much! I appreciate it! I hope you find the Eisenhower Matrix as helpful as I do!

  2. AJ

    This is a great matrix Daria! I know I’m always open to better prioritizing my time and improving my focus. I will start today putting this into action!

    • Daria Harvey

      Thanks AJ! I’m so glad to hear the Matrix resonated with you! Let us know how it works for you!

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