Peering into the week ahead can feel intimidating on Sunday night. There’s so much to do with what seems like little time. But do you have to get it all accomplished instantly? Usually not. Managing your time successfully doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. One simple method, the Urgent-Important Matrix, can quickly help reduce decision fatigue while making your to-do list bearable. Also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, this technique is an effective time manager because it allows you to easily identify what needs to get finished immediately and what can wait (or be eliminated completely).
What is the Urgent-Important Matrix?
The Urgent-Important Matrix is a time management template that aids in prioritizing the many tasks that land on your desk each day. Likely the easiest system to use when trying to determine how to spend your time, this method suggests categorizing your tasks using the following indicators:
Quadrant 1: Urgent/Important
When tasks fall into this quadrant, they need to get done now and should take priority over everything else. Waiting to work on these tasks will likely result in negative consequences such as missing a deadline. Finish Urgent/Important tasks before moving on to work in any other quadrant.
Quadrant 2: Not Urgent/Important
Tasks placed in the second quadrant are important and deserve attention, but don’t necessarily need to happen right away. For these, such as planning an event, your immediate action should be to schedule the tasks on your calendar. This ensures they do get done.
Quadrant 3: Urgent/Not Important
When tasks are urgent but not important, you usually don’t need to be the one responsible for them. This is when it’s time to delegate to someone else so you can focus on Quadrant 1 and 2 work. That way Quadrant 3 assignments, like posting content on social media, get checked off the list quickly but not at the expense of more important tasks.
Quadrant 4: Not Urgent/Not Important
Things that fall in Quadrant 4 no longer need to have your attention (or a place on your calendar). Delete them and instantly observe your sigh of relief as your to-do list shrinks. Spending hours refreshing and reorganizing your email inbox instead of simply responding to necessary messages is one example of how we can lose time in this quadrant.
How the Urgent-Important Matrix can help you manage your daily and weekly schedules
As you’re planning the week ahead, make a list of every task you think needs to get finished before signing off for the weekend. Once you have your list, use this Urgent-Important Matrix time management template to categorize each task.
You’ll quickly realize that the million and one responsibilities you thought you had that week suddenly disappear. What you’re left with is a reasonable and manageable number of tasks to accomplish. Follow this process at the beginning of the week to become an effective time manager:
- Take everything in Quadrant 1 (Urgent/Important) and add it to your calendar to get finished early in the week. Make sure you get these tasks completed first.
- Next, take your Not Urgent/Important tasks in Quadrant 2 and add them to your schedule for later in the week. They have to get finished, but not necessarily today.
- Decide who you will delegate Quadrant 3 tasks (Urgent/Not Important) to. Since they need to get done sooner rather than later go ahead and assign each one. Check out this easy-to-follow delegation framework to make this simple for you and your team.
- Before you talk yourself out of it, remove all tasks from Quadrant 4 (Not Urgent/Not Important) that are already scheduled on your calendar.
As the week goes on it’s inevitable that other responsibilities will pop up that fall into your Urgent/Important time management template. At the beginning of each day add new tasks to the appropriate quadrant. Adjust your schedule for the day ahead—along with the rest of the week—accordingly.
The Urgent-Important Matrix can quickly take your task list from overwhelming to under control. Using this time management template gives you permission to let go of things that aren’t serving you and your business. Better yet, you can be confident that you’re spending your time on important work that is moving your organization in the right direction.