Half of productivity is choosing the right things to work toward! Learn how to be productive using the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a secret weapon tool to figure out what’s important to you, right now.
You know I love to talk productivity. I always say that productivity is a totally valid form of self-care, when it’s approached in a healthy way. (You can learn all about that in The Productivity Tool Kit!)
I also always say that a huge part of being productive is knowing what you want to produce. It’s impossible to be or feel productive if you’re spinning your wheels because you can’t figure out where exactly you need productivity. And oftentimes, that happens because we’re so overwhelmed we don’t even know where to start. Sound familiar?
A Secret Weapon Tool for prioritizing
If that sounds like a place that you find yourself often, then we’re in the same boat. There have been so many times where my to-do list was so overloaded I felt paralyzed to do anything at all. And in those moments, it can start to feel like everything is a priority. Like you have to get it all done right now.
But that’s just anxiety talking.
And there’s a tool that can help figure it out! Yay!
The Eisenhower Matrix is a totally simple but totally brilliant concept, attributed to (you guessed it) Dwight D. Eisenhower. He created it to help prioritize tasks by both urgency and importance.
How to be productive with the Eisenhower Matrix
Basically, the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix) helps you sort your tasks into a grid, separating them by what is more or less urgent and important. And to see everything laid out in this way helps you figure out an obvious path forward.
It’s a perfect tool for those moments when you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list or tasks.
Start by creating a 2×2 grid. On the top of the grid, write “Urgent” over the left column and “Less Urgent” over the right column. On the left side of the grid write “Important” next to the top row and “Less Important” next to the bottom row. Now you’ve got a matrix.
If you don’t want to make one yourself, you can download ours.
Start sorting your tasks into these various sections of your grid. At first it might feel uncomfortable to call some of your tasks “less urgent” or “less important,” but you’ll start to be able to differentiate the more you work with it.
What to Do After You Sort Your Tasks
Once your tasks are sorted, you can use the matrix as a map to move forward. Here’s the breakdown.
The tasks in the upper left are urgent and important. Those need to get done, so do those first. Like, today. The tasks in the upper right are important but not urgent. Schedule them sometime in the near future. Tasks in the lower left are urgent but not important; delegate these if you can. And tasks in the lower right are neither urgent nor important. Decide whether you actually need to do these at all. (The answer is often no!)
An Example Eisenhower Matrix
Here’s how one of my recent to-do lists broke down into tasks on the Eisenhower Matrix.
So you can see, the things that needed immediate doing were writing a partnership blog post and planning the kids’ daily schedule. I did those right away, myself. Laundry was urgent but not important, so I delegated that to Ryan and the kids. Planning email broadcasts was important but not urgent, so that’s now scheduled out for the future. And deleting Lightroom photos DIY was neither important nor urgent, so I’m evaluating whether I even want to do it.
File this away under “productivity hacks” for yourself next time you feel overwhelmed. It’s so easy to let our minds run away with us and start feeling like every single item on our list needs immediate attention. This simple grid brings us back to ourselves and reality, and helps to sort through it all.
If you need a few more hacks, check out the Productivity Highlight on my Instagram! xoxo
- To-do list
- Printable Matrix
- Start by drawing a 2x2 grid on your paper. (Download our matrix if you don't want to create your own.)
- Label the left column "Urgent," the right column "Less Urgent," the top row "Important," and the bottom row "Less Important."
- Add your tasks to the appropriate place on the grid.
- After your tasks are sorted, make a plan to move ahead. Do the tasks on the top left in the immediate future. Schedule the tasks on the top right for sometime later. Delegate the tasks on the bottom left. And reevaluate whether the tasks on the bottom right need to be done at all.