Prioritize Your Life Without Time Management with the Eisenhower Matrix

Jonah Larkin

"What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important." -Dwight D. Eisenhower

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck doing menial day to day tasks instead of making progress on the big, important things in your life that will make the most difference?

It's an issue I've seen many people struggle with day to day, including yours truly.

It's one of the things I see that leads to frustration, overwhelm, and eventually burnout.

Instead of chasing frustration, the Eisenhower Matrix is a highly effective framework to decide where to focus your energy.

It was created by none other than General Dwight D. Eisenhower.  

Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War 2.  He led the invasion of Normandy and was tremendously successful where others had failed.

He was also known as someone who was tremendously productive as well as a highly effective leader.

He also served as the president of Columbia University and was the first Supreme Commander of NATO.  

He credited his leadership effectiveness to being able to focus on the most important things and he created a matrix to help him decide what to do.

It's a simple X, Y axis with urgent-not urgent on the x, and important-not important on the y.

Let's quickly go over what tasks fit where.


These tasks require FOCUS and are things like calling back a dissatisfied client or filing your taxes on time.  

These things may not be fun, but they have to be done and done quickly.

Not Important-Urgent

On the lower right are the less important but still urgent tasks, like scheduling meetings, dropping off the dry cleaning or checking email.  

This category can become all-consuming for many people.  

I've seen many clients get stuck in this category by taking on other people's goals and tasks.

These tasks can become incredibly draining and burn a ton of time.

If you can delegate these tasks, you'll save time and brain bandwidth.  

By the way, you should never check your email more than twice per day, at risk of abandoning what's important for you!

Not Urgent-Not Important

These are the worst of the worst ;)

Tasks like, gee I dunno, checking your instagram feed, playing video games, reading the news or binge watching shows all fall into this category.

Now, if some of these "mindless tasks" help you recharge, then you may want to make an exception.

But most of the time, recharge tasks also fall into the Important-Not Urgent category and should be prioritized.  

Elimination of these tasks should be your goal.

Not Urgent-Important

These are the things that are life compounders.

Think of time spent in this part of the matrix as an investment in your present and future self.

Things like exercise, sleep, working on big and important projects, managing your finances and spending time with friends, colleagues or loved ones all fall into this category.

These are the things that will improve your quality of life the most and where most of your time should be spent.  

These tasks create outsized leverage for you and help you create the life you want.

Here's How to Start

One of the best ways to start this process is to simply track your time for a week.  

There's a great free tool called Toggl that allows you to accurately track your time.

Once the week is done, look at all the things you've been spending time on and put them into each category of the matrix.

This should be pretty enlightening for you, as it certainly was with me.

Then it's time to go about eliminating, delegating and planning so you can spend the most time in the upper left-hand part of the matrix!

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!