What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix – also known as the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, the Eisenhower Important/Urgent Matrix, or simply as the Important/Urgent Matrix – is a graphical tool used to prioritize tasks by ranking them on two key attributes: Importance and Urgency. The Eisenhower Matrix was derived from a quote attributed to former U.S. leader Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Who is Dwight D. Eisenhower?
General Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) served as the 34th president of the United States. Eisenhower also served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and oversaw the D-Day Normandy invasion. After the Second World War, he became NATO’s first supreme commander and oversaw the post-war reconstruction of Germany.
In 1953, Eisenhower became the first Republican in over three decades to win the White House when he succeeded Harry Truman as president. In his lifetime, first as an American soldier and then as an elected leader of the US, Eisenhower needed to make many decisions often under extreme pressure.
Breaking Down the Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix uses a 2×2 grid to rank tasks on two key characteristics:
- Importance of the task to the overall success of the mission
- Urgency with which the task needs to be carried out
The matrix’s popularity stems from the fact that its broad framework can be applied by a wide range of organizations to a wide range of situations. It can be as easily used by a bank to assess a merger as it can be used by a group of soldiers to assess a hostage rescue mission.
1. Important but Not Urgent Tasks
They are tasks that are critical to the success of the overall mission but don’t need to be taken within a short span of time. Important but Not Urgent Tasks can’t be delegated to outside agents and must be completed by the organization’s key stakeholders. However, the tasks should be scheduled either for a time in the future when they become urgent or a time when there are no important and urgent tasks remaining.
2. Important and Urgent Tasks
They are tasks that are critical to the success of the overall mission and need to be taken within a short span of time. Important and Urgent Tasks should be prioritized over other types of tasks. They should be the first item on the organization’s to-do list. The tasks that can’t be delegated to outside agents and must be completed by the organization’s key stakeholders. In addition, Important and Urgent Tasks must be accomplished as soon as possible and should not be scheduled for a future date.
3. Not Important and Not Urgent Tasks
They are tasks that are not critical to the success of the overall mission and don’t need to be taken within a short span of time. In the short term, the organization should aim to delegate Not Important and Not Urgent Tasks to outside agents. In the long term, they are tasks that the organization should stop doing.
4. Not Important but Urgent Tasks
They are tasks that are not critical to the success of the overall mission but need to be taken within a short span of time. Not Important but Urgent Tasks should be delegated to outside agents. The organization’s key stakeholders should avoid spending their own time and resources on this category of tasks. The vast majority of tasks an organization faces falls in this category. Therefore, such tasks are the biggest drain on the resources of an organization.
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