Whether you are a housewife, a manager in a high position, or a commander-in-chief of military units, the so-called Eisenhower principle of importance and urgency will come in handy in your life. How does it help and why use it?
Time management in war
Eisenhower’s principle is one of many methods of time management. It was not proposed by any tycoon, economist, or Nobel Prize winner. We owe it to an American general and later president of the United States. Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in 1890 and during World War II served as Commander-in-Chief of the Western Allied Forces in Europe.
Even though the military commander may not seem like a classic representative of managers, he proposed one of the most significant assumptions from the management point of view: Eisenhower’s principle.
What is Eisenhower’s principle of importance and urgency?
In everyday life, at work, but also in war, you must be able to set priorities. Those who are not, tend to get stressed out, do not have much time off for themselves, or eventually, succumb to burnout.
Eisenhower’s principle is labeled a technique for top managers who, in addition to many other activities, are also involved in strategy and operations. But it can be applied to a much wider circle of people. It is all about prioritizing tasks and self-organization.
Time management: What is really important and urgent?
Eisenhower’s Urgent or Important Principle will help us especially when we need to determine which daily tasks are relevant and which, on the contrary, do not need to be given much weight. Within this principle, we divide tasks according to their importance and urgency.
The importance of the task usually depends on whether it allows us to achieve our goals or the goals of the company. Areas such as rebranding, marketing strategy, setting up a business plan, recruiting key positions and much more can be considered strategic.
The urgency of the task depends on its deadline.
Activities divided into important (strategic), unimportant (operational), urgent and non-urgent are great tools for prioritizing tasks.
If we link the importance and urgency of tasks, we get a combination that can be divided into 4 quadrants:
- Strategic urgent (important and urgent) – i.e. crisis situations. These tasks need to be solved immediately and first. After fulfilling them, we can move a step lower.
- Strategic non-urgent (important but non-urgent) – i.e. crisis prevention. These tasks often do not have deadlines but are considered urgent (important). They have an impact not only on the company’s turnover but on the business as a whole. They are not usually fulfilled at once but working on them constantly means nearing their successful completion. The strategic non-urgent quadrant tends to be tricky for managers in some aspects. It moves to the first quadrant only when it is assigned a deadline, however, deadlines for “crisis prevention” are often missing, and managers tend to postpone the task to the future. They can be delegated to competent persons.
- Operational urgent (unimportant but at the same time urgent) – i.e. routine activities. These are mainly daily tasks, planning, or checking assignments. These activities can be delegated.
- Operational non-urgent (unimportant and at the same time non-urgent) – i.e. the time eaters. Activities that are fertile ground for procrastination. You should put an end to these tasks once and for all, so ideally they shouldn’t get to you at all.
Eisenhower’s principle shows us what is necessary and what we must complete ourselves. The tasks that fall into the last category should be delegated and a representative authorized to deal with them. On the other hand, we can get help for the other tasks, resulting in an efficient and productive work pace. That should be the goal of each of us.
Examples of individual quadrants of the Eisenhower principle
By confronting the planned tasks with the matrix created according to the Eisenhower principle, you will definitely not spoil anything. Learn to work with the matrix. It is natural that tasks move from one quadrant to another. Some people work with tasks on the strategic axis, and only then move to operational. It works the same way for the second axis.
Everything will become clearer once you start to see examples behind each category:
- Strategic urgent – business meetings with important customers, meetings with key suppliers and partners, critical situations important for the vitality of the company (failure of the sales channel), etc.
- Strategic non-urgent – forecasts, strategies, business and marketing plans, corporate events, etc.
- Operational urgent – routine tasks, such as e-mail communication, communication and customer relations, etc.
- Operative non-urgent – time eaters.
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