Being productive requires consistent focus on one thing at a time. And one U.S. President was the master of it. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former five star general in the U.S. Army during World War II, became the 34th U.S. President in 1953. During his two presidential terms, his administration was directly responsible for developing the Interstate Highway system, the internet through DARPA, and the U.S. space program through NASA, among many other things. Eisenhower was so productive because he knew how to prioritize his task list, which is why the following tool is named “The Eisenhower Box”.
The Eisenhower Box helps you to delineate which tasks are:
- Urgent and Important… so you can do them right away;
- Important, but not Urgent…so you can plan to do them later;
- Urgent, but not Important…so you can delegate them to another team member to accomplish;
- Neither Urgent, Nor Important…so you can possibly eliminate them all together.
It looks something like this:
So what is the difference between Urgent and Important? Tasks that you deem ‘Urgent’ are things you feel compelled to react to…immediately. And in today’s world of social media, you’re often bombarded with ‘Urgent’ tasks – like emails, phone calls, texts and tweets. Tasks that are ‘Important’ are things that are critical to your overall mission or goal. Oftentimes, you’ll find that ‘Urgent’ tasks are rarely ‘Important’, while ‘Important’ tasks are rarely ‘Urgent’.
The Eisenhower Box is just one small tool to help you prioritize your project, week or day. As you build your daily task list, keep the Eisenhower Box in mind to identify what to focus on first, what to delegate and what to completely eliminate.
- Special thanks to James Clear from JamesClear.com for his wonderful post on the Eisenhower Box.