Manage your time with the Priority Matrix template
Ticking the quick and easy things off a to-do list is very tempting. But that’s not really a smart way to work. Time management strategies suggest to focus on the most urgent and important items first, even if they’re the hardest!
Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower came up with the world-famous Eisenhower Matrix, which is also known as the Priority Matrix or Urgent-Important-Matrix.
The matrix is a decision-making tool that helps you sort through your tasks and ensure that what’s most important doesn’t get pushed aside by the sudden, unexpected, and urgent. It will help you focus on your long-term, overall goals by providing a framework to prioritize what’s important.
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
What is the Priority Matrix?
The basic premise is that by analysing, then separating your tasks into four main quadrants filed under different areas of importance and urgency, it will allow you to plan your time better and to reduce stress .
Quadrant 1: Urgent and important = Do First
The first square is for tasks and projects that are essential to your work or personal life. These are things that need to be done today or at latest tomorrow, and can’t be pushed back.
This might be replying to an important e-mail, finishing a presentation or report. Or in your private life, paying a bill or doing taxes. They’re things that will often have negative consequences, if they’re not finished on time.
Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent = Do Later
The second quadrant is for tasks that are also important, but they don’t need to be finished immediately. Therefore you should schedule a dedicated time for them.
These tasks might include updating your website, meeting with a new supplier or reading up on an important topic. These are usually important things for your long term goals, but get swept aside, when something urgent comes up.
Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not important = Delegate
In the third square, you should list the things that are urgent, but not important and thus can be delegated. These activities might be more important to someone else than they are to you. This might be a colleague asking you to review their report, or to take a phone call for them. These tasks can be confused with Q1 tasks. So make sure to ask yourself, if the task is important for you, or someone else?
If you are running your own business, you could ask yourself: Is this worth my time, or am I better off paying someone else to do this?
These tasks could be delegated to someone else, or by enabling the requester to deal with the task themselves.
Quadrant 4: Neither urgent nor important = Eliminate
The final quadrant is for stuff that can be eliminated! These are things you shouldn’t be doing, maybe because they’re not in your scope, or because they’re time-wasting activities. By eliminating tasks that are big time wasters, your time management will become a lot easier.
In this quadrant, you should add things like Social Media scrolling or binge watching Netflix. Procrastination at it’s best! You may even find some meetings can be added to this list. However, if this is a hobby or leisure activity, don’t eliminate it. Simply move it to Quadrant 3 and schedule a time for it. If you put them into your matrix, then next time you find yourself starting that task, you’ll remember these are not part of your priorities and let it go.
How to put the Priority Matrix into practice?
Use this step-by-step guide to fill out your priority matrix:
- To get started, jot down all the tasks and projects you want or need to get done.
- Rate the activities based on their importance and urgency. You can rate them on a scale from 1-4 or use a scale of your choice, e.g. school grades or a 1-10 scale.
- Now it’s time to add the items to the matrix. Try to limit each quadrant to eight items, to keep it achievable. Remember the goal here is accomplishment!
When you add tasks to Quadrant 2, make sure you schedule a time for them, and include that time to the task in your matrix. This will keep you accountable, and help you with your time management.
Don’t worry, if there’s not much in Quadrant 3. People who are self-employed or run a household by themselves might not be able to delegate much, unlike Eisenhower with his huge team. Instead, think about who you could ask for help, or respond to requests with realistic timeframes that work with your urgent and important tasks.
Get started with the Priority Matrix template
Here at Conceptboard, we love productivity. We are always striving to work more productively, and share our tips with you. That’s why we’re really excited to share our free Priority Matrix Template with you, as we’re sure that it’ll help you to manage your time better, and focus on your big goals.
Simply click the image below and you’ll get taken straight to the template and you can start filling it out immediately.
As this will be a daily tool and living document, we recommend bookmarking the board in your browser, so you can access it easily.
Also check out the Action Priority Matrix template, which helps you to differentiate between “quick wins” and “thankless tasks” by prioritizing your tasks in terms of effort and impact.
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