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Home > Organization - 3,275 views

13-10-2012

The eisenhower box: save your time by prioritizing your tasks

How do you define which task to start with and which one to put aside? The eisenhower box gives you a very easy trick to define the way to treat your various tasks.

A bit of history

Originally, this method of prioritizing tasks is said to have been created by Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States of America.

Eisenhower would have said "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important".

JulienRio.com: The eisenhower box: save your time by prioritizing your tasks


Based on this quote the Eisenhower box was built to help people prioritizing their tasks.

 

The idea

The concept of the Eisenhower box is extremely simple. Urgent tasks and Important tasks are different things.

A task might be Urgent (has to be done within today, for example) but not Important (its impact is very limited).

Also, a task might be Important (greatly influence the future of your company, for example) but not Urgent (the meeting to present this task will not take place before a month at least).

Based on this understanding, we can place our different tasks in a 2 dimensions box called the "Eisenhower box".

Two columns (Urgent / not Urgent) and two rows (Important / not Important) help to define 4 situations:

  • the task is neither urgent nor important
  • the task is urgent but not important
  • the task is important but not urgent
  • the task is both urgent and important

 JulienRio.com: The eisenhower box: save your time by prioritizing your tasks

From here, we can define strategies for each scenario:

  • not urgent / not important: drop the task, at least for the time being. You certainly have other tasks requiring your attention.
  • urgent / not important: delegate this task. It has to be done quickly but the impact is very limited, therefore ask for someone else to handle it.
  • important / not urgent: plan this task and give it a deadline. This task has a real impact on the company / on your life, so make sure you will handle it on time, but for the moment focus on other tasks.
  • urgent / important: do it right now. Any task falling in this category should be handled right away.

 

General strategy

The Eisenhower box isn't an ideal solution by itself. It is more like a tool that offers the possibility to prioritize your tasks efficiently.

To optimal solution would be to use the Eisenhower box each time you get a new task in order to estimate what to do with this task. Once decided, you shall store the corresponding task in a "ToDoList" according to its priority level.

That way, you keep only tasks that make sense for you to handle and know immediately what type of priority you should give it, if any.

I would advise you to use "i-list.it", a tool I have already presented in an earlier article: "Organize your tasks efficiently: i-list.it, management tool". With this system, you would simply add one more easy step: before entering any task in your list, you would simply take a second to think whether this task is important and/or urgent and then define what to do with it.

That way, you will never waste anymore time working on unnecessary tasks.

 

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