Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the President of the United States for 8 years (1953 - 1961). Regardless of anyone’s feelings about him as a person, no one can deny the fact that he got stuff done. To this day you will find him frequently referenced in most books around the topics of productivity and time-management.
During his 2 terms as President he:
- Ended the Korean war.
- Signed the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956.
- Managed to balance the country’s budget 3 times.
- Signed the Civil Rights Bill in 1957.
- Created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
- Dealt with a Cold War crisis every year during his Presidency, yet managed to keep the U.S at peace each time.
He was a busy guy, but a master of prioritization. He had a gift of knowing what was the right thing to do at any given time and who was the right person to do it. His system was simple yet powerful, and is still applicable today in all aspects of life.
What is the Eisenhower Method?
His method is a simple ordering of any task into four categories based on their overall importance and urgency. It can help to keep a simple image like the one below to reference when you are sitting down to organise your tasks.
URGENT AND IMPORTANT:
When your time is limited these are the things that should receive your full attention before moving onto anything else. There is a deadline that you cannot miss or a crisis that needs to be resolved. Things like submitting time-sensitive legal documents, a chemotherapy appointment, or dealing with a crashed server at work will go into this category. They hopefully don’t happen very often, but when they do they are your priority.
NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTANT:
These tasks are normally connected with long-term plans for your career or wellbeing. They are less about putting out fires, and more about focusing on growth. Things like learning new skills that will lead to career growth, or exercising to improve your health belong here. They don’t need to be done right now, but they are very important. So schedule them ahead of time to make sure they are not forgotten about. Ideally this is the category you should spend most of your time in.
URGENT BUT NOT IMPORTANT:
These types of tasks may not make the best use of your particular talents and therefore could be delegated to someone else, leaving you more time to focus on the first 2 categories. The sad truth is that a lot of our workday is usually taken up with these types of tasks: attending meetings, answering phone calls, texts, or emails. Some ways of dealing with this category is to automate certain things. You could hire a virtual assistant to take over your company's social media, order your groceries online instead of visiting the store, learn to say no to people who are trying to fill your day with unnecessary jobs, and ask someone to take notes at meetings that don’t really require your attendance.
NOT URGENT AND NOT IMPORTANT:
Tim Urban from the blog Wait But Why refers to these types of activities as ‘The Dark Playground’. They are easy distractions like television and social media that kill productivity and should be removed as much as possible. An occasional visit to the dark playground can help you avoid burnout if you have spent too much time in the often stressful ‘Urgent and Important’ category, but they have no business being actively included in your schedule.
Using the Eisenhower Method with Sorted³.
Now that you have organised all your tasks into categories, it is time to plan out your day/week in Sorted³:
A great way to achieve this is to create tags for the ‘Do’, ‘Schedule’, and ‘Delegate’ categories.
Now that these tags are saved into your account you can go ahead listing out all your tasks into the app while assigning the relevant tags to each.
It might seem strange to assign a ‘Schedule’ tag to a task when you are currently in the process of doing just that, but this is more about reminding you about what Eisenhower Method category that particular task falls into should it be scheduled for a later date. You can of course use completely different names for your tags, as long as they are easily recognizable later on.
The ‘Delegate’ tag can be used either to define a time when you will be arranging for someone else to take over the task. However, if you have spare time at the end of the day and are struggling to pass it on to someone else, you still have it listed here as a reminder.
The importance of using something like the Eisenhower Method is that very often people struggle to grasp the difference between whether a task is Important or Urgent. They sound similar, but as you can see, they are very different. Studies found that people are more likely to focus on a task that is time-sensitive, even if it offers no great reward, than a task that is very important but has no fixed deadline. Going through this process will help you use your time more wisely and have a much more focused and efficient schedule.
James manages the Twitter account for Sorted³, and periodically contributes to the Blog.