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Eisenhower Matrix: How to Avoid the Urgency Trap for Better Task Management

The New Year comes with its zest, motivation and a the spark to try new things both at work and a personal level. While taking too much on one’s plate is easier, doing and executing it, sometimes brings down theivation.

This stands true in every aspect, whether personal or professional. However, the right management techniques and methods can structure it better. Similar to us, organisations also set business goals, and agendas for their teams in terms of operations, sales and processes.


In the routine manner of tackling these goals across business organisations, a system prioritising tasks that effectively get them to their long-term and short-term goals will help ensure efficiency.

Due to the the pressure of deadlines or just the sheer volume of tasks, the Urgency Trap is something that could bog down this efficiency. As the Harvard Business Review defines, Urgency Trap is the habitual, unbridled, and counterproductive tendency to rush through decision-making, limiting our ability to apply critical thinking to the problems at hand.

To overcome this challenge a great system to employ is the Eisenhower Matrix. It is a productivity, prioritisation and time-management framework designed to help prioritise a list of tasks or agenda items by categorising them according to their urgency and importance.


Understanding the Eisenhower Matrix with 4 Quadrants of Urgent and Important

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, also known as the Urgent/Important Matrix or the Eisenhower Method, was named after US President Dwight D. Eisenhower who famously said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

The basic concept of the method is to ensure that the tasks in hand are categorised efficiently based on how important or urgent they are.


Management of tasks


The Significance of Time Management in the Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix considerably brings down the possibility of prioritising the wrong tasks due to the urgency trap. It indicates what tasks should be rightly prioritised for now, and later and the ones that need to be delegated and also makes sure some are eliminated. This ensures that there is no waste in energy or time spent on the wrong tasks to enable a productive and efficient workflow.


How to Use the Eisenhower Matrix

To use the Matrix, one needs to first list out all the tasks that are lined up.

Once the list is made, draw up a matrix with each quadrant labelled as shown in the visual aid. Then comes the important part, where you place each of your tasks in the required quadrants after carefully evaluating what is urgent and important.

For the first quadrant – Do

The tasks that have very certain consequences to the goal of your day as well as long-term plans should be assigned here.

For the second quadrant – Schedule

Tasks that have the leeway to be scheduled later but have as much importance as the ones in the first quadrant should be assigned here. And as soon as the first quadrant tasks are done these tasks should be prioritised.

For the third quadrant – Delegate

The tasks assigned here would have the same level of urgency as the first quadrant but aren’t as important about the day’s goal and your long-term plan of action.

This also implies that your skill set isn’t required for it, hence making it effective if delegated to someone else.

For the last quadrant – Delete

The leftover tasks on the list indicate that they aren’t as important or urgent to your work day and hence you should eliminate them.


Mastering the Eisenhower Matrix for Task Prioritization

A great place to start to make effective use of the Matrix, is to limit the tasks in each quadrant to 5-10 activities according to the size of your to-do list. Another strategy is to first assign tasks to the last quadrant – Delete. This makes it easier to allocate the rest of the tasks and also sets the tone for the priorities of the day. Then move to the third quadrant and delegate the urgent tasks and finally get to the first quadrant and tackle those tasks. After which of course one can schedule the second quadrant tasks to complete them later.


The Role of the Priority Matrix in Conjunction with the Eisenhower Matrix

We know that the foundational elements of the Eisenhower Matrix are Urgency and Importance. Another system that looks at different elements of tasks is the Priority Matrix which categorises and prioritises tasks based on their Impact and Effort needed to complete them. The 4 quadrants for urgent and important matrix are:

1. High Impact & High Effort

2. High Impact & Low Effort

3. Low Impact & High Effort

4. Low Impact & Low Effort

In a team, Impact has a lot more significance and efficacy over Importance and hence the Priority Matrix used in tandem to an Eisenhower Matrix can make sure one’s time is being allocated as efficiently as possible.

On days with a high volume of tasks and deadlines, the Eisenhower Method can prove to be more effective whereas the Priority Matrix can ensure that your focus for the day is on tasks that have a high impact ensuring productivity. The integration of both of these matrices for task management ensures that all the nuances of getting tasks done are addressed and categorised suitably.


Advanced Tips and Tricks to Use Priority Matrix

It is always easier to integrate technology into productivity practices for workflows and to prevent resistance. A great way to do this is to use apps that are based on the Eisenhower Matrix such as

Dwight – To-Do Priority Matrix: Dwight is a simple, easy-to-use task management web app based on the Eisenhower Matrix. Tasks are displayed and divided by categories. Each category has a colour. You can customise the colours and subtitles if you wish to do so.

Priority Matrix: Based on the Eisenhower method framework, Priority Matrix is a full-featured project management software that helps teams prioritise and focus on what matters most.

Notion: Notion is a productivity and note-taking web application developed by Notion Labs Inc. It offers organisational tools including task management, project tracking, to-do lists, and bookmarking.

Miro: Miro is a digital collaboration platform designed to facilitate remote and distributed team communication and project management.

There are other effective tools, but we have listed a few above.

Another very useful tip to ace using the Eisenhower Matrix is to fully understand and define what ‘Urgent’ and ‘Important’ looks like specifically for one’s team and respective workflows.


The task limit on each quadrant, the flexibility of assigning the tasks may vary according to how the day progresses and making it ideal to use it for efficient task management. A great aspect of the Eisenhower Matrix is that it is very versatile since one could use it for their workflow as well as at home or personal task management given the fundamentals of tasks it tries to tackle. Do let us know how you have integrated this into your team’s workflows and how you’ve customised it for your needs.

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