Eisenhower Matrix / The Time Management Matrix

Episode 114 - 31 Jan 2018

The Eisenhower Matrix - aka The Time Management Matrix.

Has the power to change your day, your week. It could even change your life.


ORTHOGONAL. The dictionary definition is: “of or involving right angles; at right angles.”

But it has a related meaning; when two things are independent, they are considered to be othogonal.

There’s a second meaning: “statistically independent.”

When it comes to a 2 x 2 matrices, a 2x2 matrix is orthogonal - in the sense that the axes are at right angles.

But the factors that the two axes represent, are not necessarily orthogonal.

The matrixes that we started with last time were a mixture.

If we’re talking about food: food can be healthy; food can be delicious.

The two are independent.

Or a partner. A partner can be smart; a partner can be attractive.

But what about this one: for a car, we might have performanceand price.

But performance tends to come at a price. The two are not independent; the two are not _orthogonal

The Eisenhower Matrix

What about today’s main event, The Eisenhower Matrix?

Actually, it does pass the orthoganality test:

If I tell you that a task is important, I’ve told you nothing about its urgency. If I tell you a task is urgent, I’ve told you nothing about its importance.

Urgent and important are orthogonal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix.

One or two of you mentioned that the Eisenhower Matrix reminded you of Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix.

There’s a good reason for that: They’re one and the same!

Covey gave the quadrants numbers:

Quadrant 4: Not urgent, not important

Back in my day the classic example would be watching too much TV.

The modern equivalent is surfing the web, or checking Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat every two minutes.

In a word: Avoid!

We’re going end up with 4 “D”s, So I’m going to swap “Avoid” for “DUMP IT!”

Quadrant 3: - Urgent and NOT important

These are distractions and interruptions. Such as phone calls.

These are things that we should DELEGATE!

Which leaves us with the two quadrants we focused on last time, when we took to the high seas.

Quadrant 1: Urgent AND Important

The boat is sinking. You gotta bail and you gotta bail now! The “D” here is “DO FIRST”

Quadrant 2: Important and NOT urgent

In our boat, it was the act of diving down to attempt to repair the hole. The act that - eventually - saved the day.

“Dump”, “Delegate”, “Do first”. What exciting “D word” will we find behind this powerful quadrant?

Ready. Steady. “D” is for… DECIDE!

Decide? Really? is that it?

Yep. that’s it. “Decide” when to do it.

In other words “Schedule it”.

To me, this hardly does it justice.

Perhaps now you see why I dragged you off to the middle of the ocean, rather than just going through the quadrants one at a time.

Because the words “Decide” and “Schedule” do little the impart the IMPORTANCE of this quadrant.

Day… week… year

Remember our little chat about the orthogonal nature of theses axes?

The axes may be independent. But the quadrants are not.

In any day… in any week… in any year, you have a fixed amount of time.

Your degree of success will depend largely on how you divide your time between these four quadrants.

Can we agree that it would be beneficial for you to spend as much of your time as possible on the IMPORTANT?

No problem:

stop doing - DUMP - the not urgent and not important And find a way to DELEGATE urgent and not important

That’s a great start: you’ve maximised quadrants one and two.

But you’re not there yet.

If you’re like most people, you’ll find the “urgent” will overshadow the “important and not urgent”.

If you think about it, that’s not surprising.

Quadrant 2 items require planning and scheduling.
Whereas Quandrant 1 items turn up all by themselves!

At the most inopportune moments!

Like hitting something in the middle of the ocean that punches a hole in the boat.

It isn’t perfect

I like the boat thing as a mental model, because it carries an important message:

The secret to reducing the size of this quadrant 1 often lies in quadrant 2.

But there’s something about the boat mental model that isn’t perfect: the hole in the boat was … unavoidable.

And it’s true: Quadrant 1 items often are unavoidable.

Like when the school calls to tell you that your child is ill, and you need to rush out of the office to go and collect her.

But that isn’t true of all quadrant one activities.

For example, if your website goes down - and it’s all hands of deck to get it back up again.

Was that preventable?

Maybe not.

But is there anything you could in place to make it less likely to happen again? Perhaps some tests… or more monitoring?

Just like with the boat, the cure for the URGENCY of Quandrant 1 things

In the PLANNED activity of Quadrant 2.

So I’m curious.

What are the things urgent, annoying, distracting Quadrant 1 things

that conspire to fill up your day and rob you of time?

And what’s the one Quadrant 2 thing that you could do to reduce it?

Let me know in the comments below.