Are you familiar with The Eisenhower Matrix?
When it comes to scheduling out my days and getting out of #overwhelm, I find this method really handy. It's also a tool pretty much guaranteed to get me out of feeling stuck and sort out my projects.
Let's face it: STUCK is just another way to say OVERWHELMED
The Eisenhower Matrix (also sometimes referred to as the Urgent-Important Matrix or the Do-Decide-Delegate method) is a powerful tool for time management and, more specifically, for decision-making.
Fun fact! It's named after Dwight D. Eisenhower – American army general, statesman, and 34th President of the United States -- who was known for being good at making tough decisions quickly.
So he developed this tool to help him prioritize tasks and make decisions more easily. He believed that great time management means being effective as well as efficient.
Because you can't steer a parked car, it's hard to decide anything from a stuck place with no movement or momentum. This exercise helps get some stuff moving -- here's how you do it, step-by-step.
How To Get Unstuck With Your Own Eisenhower Matrix:
Start by doing a massive brain dump of everything you want to do: a huge to-do list with everything you can think of on it, or, if you have several lists going already (hello, overwhelm!), gather them up for this exercise.
Grab a blank sheet of paper, and draw a large equal grid of 4 square boxes. There are a couple of ways to do this next part, but here's my favorite:
Up the left side of your grid determines the level of importance. Across the top of your grid assesses Urgency.
Here's how your Eisenhower Matrix grid will take shape:
Top Row - Very Important
The upper left box is for tasks that are Very Important and Urgent (Do these tasks first)
The upper right: Very Important but Not Urgent (Schedule these in your calendar this week)
Bottom Row - Not Important
Lower left: Not Important but Urgent (Delegate these or automate them using tech)
Lower right: Not Important and Not Urgent (Delete, Eliminate these - or relegate them to personal time)
The trick here is correctly identifying the very important items from the rest on your to-do list, so you're not spending time on tasks that suck up all your time but won't move you forward.
Here's how you can tell the difference:
These are tasks that directly move you closer to your long-term business goals/objectives
Tasks that are time-sensitive and/or must be done before anything else.
They often have a due date or are otherwise pressing in nature.
Examples of how to sort your tasks
Here are some prompts to get the ideas flowing, so you can fill up your own Eisenhower Matrix. Of course, these will vary depending on the type of work you do, but it's a place to start:
Examples that could fall under "Very Important and Urgent":
These tasks are where action is required of you; and/or tied to a specific date & time. Do these first!
Deadline-driven tasks/projects, client appointments, etc
Dealing with upheaval from pressing problems (i.e. sick kiddos, natural disasters, pandemics)
Sending new client proposals/closing sales
Things that cannot be delegated or automated in any possible way (* if you're a one-person operation, keep reading - there's a special section below for you)
Live events, launches, etc
Examples that could fall under "Very Important but Not Urgent":
These are your ongoing priorities that require intentionality around getting them done, but have little urgency -- they might not have a specific "due date". Schedule these in your calendar and stay on them.
Beware! These tasks tend to be the first to get pushed off our radar when we get "busy", sometimes indefinitely. In my experience, letting these slide is the most detrimental to your feeling of progress. In other words, get back on top of these, and you'll feel like you're moving again.
Tending to important financials (invoicing, budgeting, etc)
Developing or brainstorming new projects, business offerings
Learning and mastering new business skills
Tending to health goals (meal planning & prepping, workouts, meditation, etc)
Creating solid social media content, building relationships on social, networking
Writing & sharing it outward (if relevant)
Get some dang sleep
A quick lesson on "Urgency":
I invite you to make sure the time pressure is coming from you and is for your benefit (such an important submission deadline for a chance to get published) and not some external source (like a colleague or client who's way behind on their work or can't make up their mind, and now they're making it your problem). Most of the time, when I've been saddled with other people's urgencies, it was a result of poor boundaries on my part. Learning to say no is one of the greatest skills you can master!!
Examples that could fall under Not Important but Urgent:
Things that might appear time-sensitive, but don't directly impact your company's big goals. Sometimes, you don't even need to be the one doing them. These should be delegated or automated whenever possible.
Answering texts, emails, calls the second they come in (set an auto-responder email if you must give them an immediate reply, but otherwise set aside time to address these in batches, not as they come in.) You own your time, not them.
Scheduling meeting times the old way with email back-and-forths, a.k.a. being your own receptionist (Thursday at 10? No? How about Monday at 2:30? Ok let's try Tuesday at 1...) Ain't NOBODY got time for that. Use an online appointment scheduling tool and save your sanity!
For some, this might include bookkeeping and scanning receipts
Answering the same questions over and over (install a good FAQ area on your website)
Manually posting to social (use a social scheduling tool that will do it for you)
Weighing many complex options to book flights (use Google Flights - it will collate all your options for you. Bonus tip: use it in an Incognito browser window so the ticket prices don't keep creeping up each time you look!)
Editing (and re-editing, and re-editing) your written material ad infinitum
Reorganizing your papers (you know when this is necessary vs. when it's procrastination!)
A quick lesson on being a one-woman-shop and believing 'you're not able to delegate':
"I can't delegate, it's just me!", "It's so much faster if I do it myself!", "It's too complicated to try to do this any other way!". These are things I hear all the time. Usually from the least happy and most overworked people out there.
The truth is that when we aren't happy with our progress, we can all adapt to better or more efficient ways we could be spending our time. If you're reading this article then I know you can use a shift in perspective! In fact, that's usually the root of the issue: being attached to ways of doing things that aren't optimal, just because we're used to them. Be mindful of where you might be falling into this thinking trap, notice it, and then resolve to be more open to new solutions. #thingsIlearnedthehardway
At the very least, if you truly cannot get around being the person who does all the things, then at least make the work easier on yourself by deciding when to tackle the harder stuff (at the time of day when you're most alert and undistracted) and when to slip in some way-less-demanding tasks (like at 3PM on a Friday). And that my friend, is still a form of delegating!
Examples that could fall under Not Important and Not Urgent:
Why are you wasting any of your precious and limited time on this earth doing these things? I'm half-kidding -- we all need downtime doing things we enjoy -- but you will recognize some of these as major time-sucks that just might be encroaching on your business progress during peak hours. These tasks either need to be deleted completely, or strictly relegated to downtime.
Then again, for some of these... maybe not even in your downtime 😉
Endless social media scrolling
Perfectionism, impossible standards, no grace for a learning curve & trying your best
Listening to every stray thought your Imposter Syndrome is throwing your way today
Some types of phonecalls
Many types of emails
Youtubing or Netflixing
Non-work tasks like running errands, shopping or cleaning the house
I hope these examples will help to get you sorted and get you moving again!!
When you practice the Eisenhower Matrix method regularly, you will uncover a simple foundational principle about the tasks that pop up in our work:
"The urgent are never important, and the important are never urgent." - Eisenhower
Agree or disagree?
Over the years, I've adapted several productivity methods to optimize my days. My work-from-home productivity has finally reached a place I'm happy with. This is new territory, my friend!
How do you make the most of your precious time when you’re in “work mode”? For those of you who work for yourselves: how do you decide where to start?
Please share so we can all help each other.