Eisenhower Matrix : avoid the emergency trap

How was Eisenhower able to reach so many accomplishments that would have such a lasting impact on his country and the world? He understood the fundamental difference between the “Urgent” and the “Important“.

Later on, Stephen Covey started from Eisenhower’s insights to create a simple tool to prioritize tasks, now known as the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as The Time Management Matrix, The Eisenhower Box, The Eisenhower Method, and The Urgent-Important Matrix). This framework for prioritization helps you combat the “mere-urgency” effect, eliminate time-wasters in your life, and create more mental space to make progress on your goals.

Say yes to one of those and don’t ask yourself, “is this method for me ? ” anymore : 

  • I am running around putting out fires all day (and I am not a firefighter)
  • I am busy but I don’t feel my work has a high impact in the end
  • I have long-term goals but no time or energy to make progress on them
  • I find difficult saying no or delegating

The Mere-Urgency effect 

How do we decide which task to give our attention to any given moment? We don’t appear very good at it actually. 

Research say that our attention is drawn to time-sensitive tasks over tasks that are less urgent even when the less urgent task offers greater rewards. This is why we are so bad at task & time management.

We are going to prioritise tasks that appear to have a deadline rather than other tasks even though those without a deadline might have a greater pay-off on the long term. 

The Eisenhower Matrix

Urgent matters are those that require immediate action. They are visible and demand your attention NOW. 

Important matters are those that contribute to long-term goals and life values. They usually require planning. 

How to rebalance ?

To evaluate where you currently are on the matrix, start tracking your time and tasks. Once you have tracked a few days, stop and start organising your tasks you have just done in the different quadrants of the matrix. 

To do that, ask yourself : 

  1. Was this urgent for me?
  2. Was this important to me?

Then have a look at where your time is currently being spent. Are you happy with your quadrant balance? if not, start making some changes.  


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