Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the top American generals during World War 2, and later also became the 34th President of the United States. As can be expected, these challenging roles kept him quite busy.
In order to keep a level head and get things done, he needed to be able to prioritize. This led him to develop a simple method to determine which tasks he had to do immediately and which he could avoid. It is now called the Eisenhower Method and uses one little tool called the Eisenhower Matrix.
It involves drawing up a box, dividing it into 4 quadrants and then labeling them. Basically, whenever you are doing a task, it is usually either important or not important. It is also usually either urgent or not urgent. These are also the labels that Eisenhower used.
The top left-hand box is labeled important and urgent. That’s where you put all the things that you need to do right now and that are important.
The top right-hand box is labeled important, but not urgent. These are things that are important, but ones that you don’t have to do straight away. These things you can pre-plan for later.
The bottom left-hand box is labeled not important, but urgent. These are things that you should attempt to delegate to others.
The last box, the bottom right-hand one, is labeled both not important and not urgent. These are usually things you shouldn’t be doing at all. So eliminate them.
Let’s use an example of how this works in practice:
This categorization of the tasks to do can help you to set priorities and to determine which things to do during the day.
Since studying for the test and writing a blog post are both important and urgent, you would do them first. Fitness is important, but not urgent at the moment, then you would schedule a time for it later in the day.
Answering emails and washing your dishes are not every important, but are urgent, so you should find someone to delegate these tasks to if possible.
Instagram, obsessing about pop stars, and binge watching sports with a beer in hand are all not important and not urgent, so you should try to limit these as much as possible, with the intention of eliminating them altogether.
You can use the Eisenhower Matrix in conjunction with another little tool I shared with you earlier, the Kanban Board. This is a board that you divide up into three columns labeled: To Do, Doing, Done.
Then you write all your tasks for the day on Post-It notes and move them between the columns depending on the status of each particular task.
You can do this planning in the morning as part of your agile approach to life routine.
The morning is when you reflect on yesterday’s activities, but also the things that you need to do today. These two little tools can help you with that process.
The Stoics were big on reflecting on their priorities and things that they need to do during the day. They had several techniques that they applied to help them do this, which were very similar to the techniques that I described above.
A day in the life of someone applying the system of Marcus Aurelius.