The Priority Matrix is also called The Eisenhower Method or ABC Analysis. The Priority Matrix has two dimensions. The first one is importance (important and not important), and the second one is urgency (urgent and not urgent).
All our tasks are divided into four quadrants: important and urgent, important and not urgent, not important and urgent, not important and not urgent. We classify each task according to these quadrants, and then we deal with the tasks according to the quadrant they belong to.
Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent
Obviously, we need to do the tasks in this quadrant because they’re important, and we should do them first because they are urgent. Usually, if we’re short on time we should do these tasks first. Sometimes, we don’t have a choice, but letting things get to this point has a negative effect on our performance and quality of life. Later, we will discuss how to reduce the number of such tasks.
Quadrant 2: Important and Not Urgent
We take care of tasks in this quadrant after we deal with the tasks in Quadrant 1.
The tasks in Quadrant 2 are not urgent, but we have to take them very seriously because, if we don’t, they will move to Quadrant 1.
It’s better to take care of our tasks before they appear in Quadrant 1. Why? Because there are at least two problems with Quadrant 1 tasks: We have to deal with them quickly, and that can cause stress and worry and even effect the quality of our work.
For example, if we need to finish a report and present it to our boss two weeks from now, we might classify that task as important but not urgent. If we do nothing, in a week this task will become important and urgent. The best way to deal with this task is to prepare a plan for the task (you can use a
, described later, for that purpose).
This plan might include steps like gather the data, write a draft, ask a colleague for remarks, fix the draft, send it to our boss, set a time for the presentation, and present it.
Each one of these tasks has a time in which it will appear in Quadrant 1 (important and urgent), but it’s better to deal with an urgent task like “send a draft for remarks on Tuesday ” in Quadrant 1 than dealing with “prepare a presentation to the boss by tomorrow”.
If we don’t take care of tasks in Quadrant 2, we will find ourselves in a situation where we are short on time: we can’t wait for data we asked for and there’s no time to get feedback on a draft. The results: we’re stressed, we worked until late at night, and we created a lousy report.
So, Quadrant 2 (important and not urgent) deserves serious attention. Monitor this quadrant carefully. If needed, divide the tasks into subtasks. Start the tasks on time, even if they don’t look urgent now. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of effort with questionable results, and paying attention to Quadrant 2 will result in good performance while keeping a good quality of life.
Quadrant 3: Not Important and Urgent
Why should we bother with tasks that are not important? Why are they urgent?
Many times other people try to force us to deal with these tasks. They are the time robbers. The way to reduce this problem is simply to protect your time.
For example, if someone insists on talking with you in person immediately, and it means you need to travel out of your office, find out why that meeting is so urgent. Maybe you can have a phone call instead, and maybe that person is going to be in your area next week. Protect your time.
Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent
The tasks in this quadrant are serious time wasters. When you identify a task in that quadrant, try to cancel it. If you can’t eliminate it completely, try to minimize the time you spend on that task.
A useful chart is a daily time management activities chart combined with a priority matrix .
You can print it from
Free Time Management Charts page
Time management techniques