Eisenhower matrix goal setting and control

    We have already written about how to cope with fear and procrastination that stop us on the path to achieving our goals . However, after we left the “dead zone” of inactivity and motivated ourselves on the result, we can go to the other extreme: after a long 8-12 hour working day it is impossible to say what, in fact, we managed to do. And most importantly - what is the result of our efforts? Did he move us towards our goals?

    As a result, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation where you’re “spinning like a squirrel in a wheel,” and things seem to stand still. Only fatigue is accumulating. Sensations from the achieved heights never appear.

    Goal setting problem

    This problem was called time- setting problem in time management . The consequences of a mistake in goal setting can be colossal: it seems that life is turning into a series of exhausting working marathons without visible results. This is similar to the work of the ancient Greek king Sisyphus, who, after his death, was sentenced to roll a huge stone onto the mountain, which barely reached the top and fell back down. And so - forever.


    Choice of goals and priorities

    Despite the fact that the problem is large-scale, and its consequences are complex and protracted, it is possible to deal with it. To do this, before starting any activity, you need to set goals and prioritize correctly. How to do this, we will tell a little lower, and now focus, please, on one single thought:

    Do not proceed with the fulfillment of the intended tasks if you cannot answer the question of how much and what purpose does this or that task advance you after its completion.

    The “randomly do everything in a row” way of action can be almost perfect in order to “start the internal motor”, “wake up” and start to do something. I usually use household chores for this purpose - their selection is quite limited, the result is immediately visible from their implementation and it would not be very comfortable to refuse to perform them anyway. This type of activity can be done in the “saw - done” mode.

    But when it comes to achieving goals within the framework of a working draft, we have before us almost unlimited scope for action, which means we can literally do “anything”. In the time deficit mode (namely, this resource is always limited for us), this technique will be unproductive. Therefore, only the golden rule will save us here: “First we think, then we do”.

    Fast goal setting

    Then the question arises: is there any effective methodology for “thinking fast” so that this does not become a task for half a day? Yes, here it is quite appropriate to use a method known to almost everyone who at least once tried to understand time management and which we put in the header of the post. This is the Eisenhower matrix. About it has already been written earlier in other posts (we give their more or less complete list at the end of ours). However, we would like to offer our own way of using this matrix, which we have already used in practice more than once.

    Traditionally, the invention of the matrix is ​​attributed to Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, who had previously been an army general. However, this is not quite true. Rather, the matrix got its name from the president’s famous quote “Not all urgent matters are important, and not all important matters are urgent.”

    The matrix allows you to quickly and fairly confidently sort your affairs, even if there are a lot of them. All you need is to go through the to-do list (which you probably already “unloaded” from your head using the GTD method) and answer yourself two questions for each task:
    • It is important? Well no
    • This is urgent? Well no

    Depending on the combination of answers, each task, without much discussion, falls into one of the quadrants of the matrix, divided into 4 quadrants, depending on the importance and urgency of the task.


    I must say that the Eisenhower matrix has many names and was presented differently by various adepts and creators of time management systems. In particular, the famous author of the GTD methodology, Stephen Covey, has the matrix called Urgency \ Importance matrix - he also recommended using it in his book “7 Skills of Highly Effective People”. The same method is sometimes called the visual version of the “Four D Rules”, which will be discussed below.

    What to do with each quadrant

    Many modifications of the matrix itself and many interpretations of how to deal with tasks in one quadrant or another. We dwell in more detail on two options, of which the first seems to us the most convenient.

    Method 1: Do-Plan-Delegate-Eliminate

    “Do - Plan - instruct - Do not do” - this is how this “success formula” will sound in the translation and it is precisely these actions that need to be performed with tasks from the corresponding quadrants.

    Quadrant 1
    Urgent and important. Something happens in this quadrant: a fire or a baby crying or blocking a bug release. This is a “bad” quadrant; it should be avoided if possible. Occasionally, you can “put” tasks from the second quadrant, which I would like to close immediately for one or another irrational reason.

    Quadrant 2
    Important, but not urgent.This quadrant contains your most productive business. Since in the case of these matters “time is running out,” we are already talking about rational planning and high-quality implementation of each task. This is what it would be wise to spend time on today.

    You can start doing things in order, and you can also go through the to-do list from this quadrant once again asking yourself the questions “Is this important?” and “Is it urgent?”, thus making another quadrant within the second quadrant and more detailed about its goals.

    Quadrant 3
    Not important, but urgent.One of the most unproductive quadrants, as In connection with their urgency, it is precisely these matters that “snatch” you out of the stream of your productive activity and force you to roll a stone uphill without a goal. These cases do not advance you towards your goals, as a rule it is a different kind of informational noise, for example, meetings, long telephone conversations and “nothing” dialogues instead of making decisions. It is recommended that you delegate these tasks to "someone else." You can delegate or not do them at all, the main thing is that things from this quadrant are not performed personally.

    Quadrant 4
    Not urgent and not important.Just forget about these things. Indeed, something needs to be able to say no. Ideally, it is advisable that this quadrant be left blank. Nevertheless, it most often falls into various requests from people who are unlikely to do something in return, as well as dreams from the category of "I always wanted to find a yellow flower elephant on wheels and ride." It’s not wise to spend time on every spontaneous desire if you want to achieve your goals.

    Rule of Four D

    In fact, “4D” does not always describe the quadrants of the “Important-Urgent” matrix, because there are various interpretations of them, nevertheless one of them fits the description above and can also be applied to four quadrants:

    Do, Delegate, Defer, or Dump (Do, Assign, Suspend, Throw)
    Do, Decide, Delegate, Delete (Do, Decide (in what order to do), Instructions, Delete)


    The main charm of the method is its speed. First, it presents “task statistics” visually. You can immediately evaluate the effectiveness of using your temporary resources. Secondly, answering yes or no to just two questions, you divide all the tasks into 4 groups. If you were initially given the task “divide your tasks into 4 groups”, it would take much more time.

    Performance test


    You can use the Eisenhower method not only to sort tasks into those that move you toward your goal and those that slow you down. You can also use it to measure your overall performance. Ideally, after you have answered without hesitation for a long time “yes and no” to two already known questions for each task, you will find that almost all of your tasks “fell” into the second quadrant.

    But of course, most often this does not happen, and then the matrix clearly shows where you have a bias and where you risk being at the end of the day if you do not switch to productive tasks.

    To apply the method, there is already a considerable amount of mobile, web and desktop software. And for setting your goals and achieving them, you have the SmartProgress servicewhich has already helped to achieve more than 10,000 goals. And what is your goal? PS If you do not have an account on the hub, you can express your opinion on this article in our blog - SmartTalks Other posts about the Eisenhower matrix SCRUM board + Eisenhower quadrant for product management Anti-alarm solutions Key points in time management Overview of task management software in Outlook Time Management in practice Management tools: 16 concepts for every day Time management is really simple

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    How Important and Urgent was to read this post?

    • 2.4% 1st quadrant: if I had not read this post, something would have happened. 8
    • 48.6% 2nd quadrant: it was not urgent, but important. Thanks for the text. 161
    • 6% 3rd quadrant: it was urgent, but absolutely not important. You owe me 10 minutes of my time. 20
    • 42.9% 4th quadrant: it was neither urgent nor important. I don’t know why I read it. 142

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