4 Quadrant Priority Matrix

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Eisenhower’s Matrix is named after it’s founder Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. Before becoming President, Eisenhower served as a general in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. During this time Eisenhower had to make tough decisions continuously about which of the many tasks he should focus on each day. This led him to invent the world-famous Eisenhower Matrix, which today helps us prioritise by urgency and importance.

An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). Continue reading Action. Want to learn how to design a salary structure? Check: template for my video: Excel for HR - Create Annual Em. The time management matrix will help you identify what you really spend your time on. It's a particularly useful tool if you want to know how to prioritize work, personal roles, goals and commitments. Made popular by the late Stephen R. Covey, it's based on the the idea that all your time is spent in a four quadrant matrix.

More recently this matrix has become popularly known as ‘Covey’s Time Management Matrix’, named after Steven Covey who introduced us to the matrix in his wildly successful bestselling book ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’ which was first published in 1989.

What is the Meaning of the Four Quadrants? “Quick Win” Quadrant: These are improvements that are easy to implement and have a relatively high benefit. This is the quadrant that should be the priority when implementing Lean Six Sigma project improvements.

Whether you call it ‘Eisenhower’s Matrix’ or ‘Covey’s Time Management Matrix’ – the ‘Priority Matrix’ (which is what I like to call it) is a highly effective and powerful tool for utilising your time wisely and focusing on what really matters in business and life.

In my previous blog post, ‘How to Resolve Overwhelm’, I wrote about having too much on our ‘to do lists’ that can result in overwhelm which is one step away from stress that negatively impacts our physical, mental and emotional health.
Knowing what our priorities are and focusing on these can help us reach our goals while also ensuring we don’t become overwhelmed and stressed along the way protecting our most valuable asset – our health!

Many studies have been carried out on the detrimental effects of stress on the human body and going by these studies stress should be avoided at all costs.

Here is how this amazing ‘Priority Matrix’ works.

The matrix is divided into 4 quadrants determined by varying degrees of urgency and importance.

Important tasks are those that contribute to your business or personal strategy, tasks that move you closer to your Vision, Mission and True North

Urgent tasks are those that require immediate attention. More often than not these tasks are due to not spending enough time planning or other people’s agendas taking priority

1. Important and Urgent – these are tasks that require immediate attention, they must be done asap. These can be deadlines, crises, problems that need immediate solutions, emergencies, last minute tasks.

Priority

Only tasks that require your immediate attention should go into this quadrant.
Care is required to ensure you do not spend all of time in this quadrant as this quadrant is basically fire fighting. This will eventually lead to burnout and progress towards goals will be minimal.

4 Quadrant Priority Matrix Excel

2. Important and Not Urgent – these are long term tasks that will contribute to your business and personal strategy and goals. They are not urgent tasks but must be planned and prepared for in order to run the business or live the life you envisage for yourself. These are strategy planning, review of strategy, goal setting and achieving, continuous Improvement, problem solving, personal development, holidays, recreation planning, looking after your Mind, Body and Soul.

This is the most important quadrant and you should be spending most of your time here if you want to reach your professional and personal goals and make the very best out of the 24 hours a day we are all given,

3. Not Important and Urgent – these are time wasting tasks that deliver little to no value. These are interruptions, problems that do not belong to you, non-relevant phone calls/meetings/e-mails/reports.

The best thing to do with these tasks is to either delegate or decline them. They may need to get done, but don’t necessarily need to get done by you. In this case delegate, delegate, delegate. If you can’t delegate, it’s also ok to decline and say no to these time wasters!

4. Not Important and Not Urgent – these are time wasting tasks that deliver no value whatsoever. These are watching tv, scrolling through social media, video games, surfing the net, needless phone calls/meetings/e-mails/reports.

These should be moved from your ‘to do list’ to your ‘not to do list’ asap! If you are spending any amount of time in the quadrant stop now and move your focus to quadrant 2!

That’s it, the Priority Matrix is a pretty simple tool, however as with all things simple, it is also incredibly effective and powerful.

What quadrant do you spend most of you time in?

What would you populate your ‘Priority Matrix’ with to make the most of your precious time?

You might like other blog posts I have written,

‘Red is Good’ and ‘All Green is Good’,

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Siobhain

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Eisenhower Decision Matrix or sometimes referred to as the Eisenhower Box helps determine which tasks in your day are truly important and identifying which tasks are important but should be further down on your to-do list.

Prioritising tasks is not always as easy as it sounds learn how to decipher between urgent and priority tasks. Use these skills to develop better time management abilities to make you more productive.

Between the professional duties and personal responsibilities that many people struggle with, organisation can be a nightmare. Employees or business owners can find themselves spending too much time on some things and ignoring others.

Avoiding procrastination, writing habit forming checklists and using time management tools help a great deal. However, you need a lot more than that. Prioritisation is just as crucial. The Eisenhower decision matrix is one of the tools that individuals and companies can implement to improve productivity.

Also called the urgent-important matrix, this productivity model is all about doing the critical tasks first. You have to arrange activities from the most urgent ones. Knowing which tasks require immediate attention and attending to them accordingly simplifies things.

Before implementing the Eisenhower principle, you must be clear about which responsibilities are urgent and which ones are important.

Most people confuse the two terms. Understand that a task can be important without being urgent. An urgent issue is time-sensitive. It demands immediate action. On the other hand, importance refers to an impact on the objectives. If the failure to do a task will hurt the long-term goals, then that activity is important. This premise defines the urgent-important matrix.

The prioritisation tool gets its name from the 34th president of the US, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was a five-star general in the United States Army before becoming president. Eisenhower had a litany of accomplishments in his life, including forming DARPA, originally ARPA. He was also NATO’s first supreme commander, not to mention an avid painter and golfer the epitome of productivity.

With everything going on in his life, Eisenhower managed to excel at every turn. He attributed his success to a productivity system and time management that prioritised urgent matters. These experiences and productivity skills led him to develop the Eisenhower Matrix as a powerful tool for time management.

Priority quadrant chart

He was famous for saying that most things that are urgent are not important, and most that are important are not urgent. His approach to tasks resulted in the creation of the Eisenhower principle.

The Eisenhower Box is how you can use the matrix to help with task management. It is a simple tool that allows you to separate activities, depending on urgency and importance.

The matrix has four quadrants – Do, Schedule, Delegate and Eliminate.

  • DO: Immediate Action. Urgent and important tasks.
  • Schedule: Not urgent but important tasks;
  • Delegate: Urgent and not important tasks
  • Eliminate: Not urgent and not important tasks.

In the first section, you have tasks that are urgent and important. These are the activities that you have to DO immediately. If you are arranging your daily schedule, the tasks in the first quadrant should be done in the morning.

Your second list includes tasks that are important but not urgent. Therefore, you have to SCHEDULE the right time to handle them. They can vary from answering emails to planning a family trip.

The third category in the Eisenhower Decision Matrix has a to-do list that is urgent but not important. You can DELEGATE these duties to other people.

Finally, the fourth quadrant contains the tasks that are neither urgent nor important and, therefore, you should ELIMINATE them.

Now you understand what the Eisenhower Principle is all about. What benefits does it provide to a company?

For one, employees will be clear about what to do first. They can avoid last-minute rushes to complete urgent tasks. Getting the right people to deal with some less important tasks frees up time for the duties that matter the most. Getting rid of useless activities like surfing the web allows workers to be more productive. They can minimise distractions effectively and avoid procrastination.

When using the matrix, employees should remember that it’s not about the number of tasks on each checklist, but the quality and ability to finish them.

The matrix needs effort in planning, organising, scheduling, and prioritising to make the matrix work. Try to apply the time management tips below:

The importance of writing to-lists or checklists is key to help prioritise tasks and free up space in your mind.

Focus on category One – Urgent and Important Tasks (Do First)

Think about using smart to-do list and automation software.

Dont try and multitask. Focus on one task and complete it before moving onto the next.

Procrastination isn’t that you’re lazy — you can simply be overloaded and have too much on your plate and not know where to start.

Use every free moment working on completing tasks and marking things off your to-do list.
Never spend more than one hour in your day doing something unproductive.

Dont over-manage your to-do list.

Organise your time and allocate time for certain tasks.

One list not two. Remember to also include items for yourself and family because they are a priority as much as business tasks.

Dont overburden yourself or make yourself feel overloaded, it can make you feel trapped and stressed.


Always complete the most important task first before adding another one. The aim is to finish tasks not collecting huge amounts of tasks.

Too-many-tasks can make us procrastinate more!

What Is Quadrant 4

People, phones and social media can be a great distraction from you focusing on your tasks.

Do not let others define what your priority are.

Plan in the morning, then work on priority tasks.

Can a task be completed by someone else?
Who is the best person for the job?

Prioritization Quadrant

Correct implementation of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix can contribute to efficient task management. Find suitable tools to help with task prioritisation.