One common way of deciding what task should be done next is to divide the tasks based on urgency and importance. Some people call this Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix or Eisenhower’s Decision Principle. This because Dwight D. Eisenhower is supposed to have used this simple system to set priorities and organize his workload. Later, Stephen Covey promoted this system in his popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The system is very simple, tasks are divided into four categories based on importance and urgency. The four groups are:
- Important and Urgent
- Important but Not Urgent
- Not Important but Urgent
- Not Important and Not Urgent
Urgent tasks require immediate attention. But they are seldom moving us closer to our main goals. Important tasks on the other hand, are getting us closer to our main goals. Often the problem is that important tasks are seldom urgent. It is easy to spend most of a day firefighting, that is, on urgent tasks. But in order to move forwards in life and business, you need to spend as much time as possible on the important tasks.
The important and urgent tasks are seldom a problem, they tend to get done. After all they are both important and urgent. Some of the tasks may have become urgent due to procrastination. Good planning can help you to keep the number of tasks that are both important and urgent down.
Important but not urgent tasks are the key to success. Often these activities are not done because of too many urgent but not important tasks. Make sure to allocate a lot of time for the important but not urgent tasks.
The urgent but not important tasks are often interruptions, others want you to help them achieving their goals. It is important to be able to make difference between activities which get you closer to your goals, the important tasks, and activities which don’t get you closer to your goals. A lot of people spend far too much time on urgent tasks which are not important. Obviously, you can’t say no to every urgent task but try to limit the time spent on urgent but not important tasks.
Needless to say, tasks that are neither important nor urgent should not be done unless absolutely necessary. Not all such tasks can be avoided but try to spend as little time as possible on such activities.
The main problem for most people is that they spend far too much time on activities that are urgent but not important. If you want to be successful, you should try to spend as much time as possible on important activities. In order to this, you must of course know which tasks are important so that you can tell the difference between activities which are getting you closer to your goals which are not. By spending more time on important but not urgent tasks, you also limit the number of important and urgent tasks.