What is important and what urgently?

    Eisenhower's matrix is ​​a very well-known method of determining priorities. For example, in the famous book by Stephen Covey, “The Seven Skills of Highly Effective People,” an entire chapter is devoted to the matrix.

    Matrix is ​​a task prioritization tool. It was invented, they say, by the 34th President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower. Prioritizing with a matrix is ​​simple and effective.

    As far as he is known, it is also not widespread in our midst, whether it concerned work or life. The Eisenhower matrix looks like this:

    Any task that needs to be done falls into one of the four quadrants of the matrix. Perform in order from top to bottom, from left to right. First - urgent and important, then - urgent and not important, then not urgent and important, and, finally, not urgent and not important.

    The key problem that people face when working with the Eisenhower matrix is ​​the classification of tasks by urgency and importance. More precisely, the main problem is to understand what urgency and importance are in general. And without understanding, people throw the matrix, after playing a day or two. Let's try to figure it out.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, there are no unambiguous criteria. Anyone can come up with their own rules, but not everyone will do it. Therefore, we will do this: I will tell you how I determine urgency and importance, and you decide for yourself whether this approach suits you or not. Well, come up with your own rules.

    Let's start with urgency, as it is prioritized.

    What task can be called urgent? I don’t remember where I heard this criterion, but I really liked it for its simplicity.An urgent task is one that after the deadline can no longer be done . Simple and clear.

    But applying this approach to life is not easy. That database has stopped working with the client - do I need to fix it urgently or not? By the criterion - no, because the base needs to be raised now, and tomorrow, and in a week. If you try to explain the urgency criterion to someone in a crisis situation, then nothing good will come of it.

    Therefore, we take a smoother criterion. Urgent - this is when losses are high because the task is not solved . Take a break and think how urgent are the tasks that we used to consider as such?

    Unfortunately, many managers tend to call everything urgent tasks. Unfortunately, it is not that they are wrong, but the priority system that stops working - all tasks look the same. It becomes difficult for the programmer to choose.

    Objective urgency is often encountered in customer tasks - for example, the aforementioned drop in the base. Or in the yard is the 19th of October, and the client needs to take the VAT, but the declaration is not formed in any way. Or, God forbid, the end of March, and there is no way to calculate the profit tax. Or invoices are not printed, for an unexplained reason, and there are downtimes in shipping.

    Such tasks are urgent, because they satisfy our criterion - there are real losses from the fact that the problem is not solved. And it’s not just that it is - a profit tax that is not delivered on time threatens with a serious fine.

    It is important to be able to separate the concepts of “urgency” and “deadline”. Any task has a deadline, one way or another, even if it is not indicated. Then I get ahead of myself a bit, the timelines will be told another time, but I want you to understand: the availability of the deadline is not an urgency . As well as approaching the deadline - this is not urgency.

    The urgency of the task does not correlate with the deadline. For example, the deadline for completing a task may not be of the “date” type, but “as fast as possible, damn it!” That is, formally, there is no deadline. But the task, however, is urgent. Or the task may have a deadline - tomorrow, but everyone understands that it was put by a person who doesn’t need a solution - he will transfer the deadline to any date upon his first request. Or the system is so arranged that without specifying a deadline the task cannot be entered.

    Urgency is a separate attribute of a task that characterizes the context of its birth and life, and not managerial designations like "deadline" or "inclusion in the plan of this day."

    Now about the importance. Back to the classic - Stephen Covey. He outlined the important tasks for the future . A fairly simple, though not entirely clear definition. Let's try to decrypt.

    There are tasks from the solution of which nothing fundamentally changes. So you decided it, the client paid the money, and there were no significant changes - neither you nor the client. The solution to this problem did not cause a flurry of new problems, the long-running project did not start, no one was fired and no one was hired, and some oppressive problem of the client’s business was not resolved.

    And there is a client’s task, having solved which, you get a project. There is a central task of the project stage, which transfers it from testing to operation. There is the task of testing the hypothesis in risky development, after solving which you have the first release, and you can finally show your product to users and get feedback. There is a task on which the reputation of the team or your entire company depends. There is a task by which they will judge your promotion. There is a task on which your hourly rate depends.

    These tasks are important. Something depends on them. And not just “something”, but concrete, understandable and useful for you “something”. They not only influence the future, but also shape it .

    For example, I am creating this material, which will subsequently become a course. Until I write the material, there will be no course. There will be no course - there will be no sales. I’ll write a course - everything will happen. Writing a course is an important task. Instead, I can be distracted by current tasks - to do something for clients, or to release the next release. Perhaps these are urgent tasks, but they do not create the future. And the course creates.

    This is the importance of the task. Everyone understands it secretly, but here's the catch - understanding alone is not enough. When we talked about choosing a task, we noted: if a person decides what task to take on, then he is guided by his own criteria. And what kind of person, in his right mind, will take on an important task of his own free will?

    You understand: high importance is a high responsibility. Whatever we think about people, or about ourselves, we try to avoid responsibility. Therefore, an important task will be postponed, and the programmer will do what he likes.

    In order for important tasks to be performed in the first place, it is necessary to adjust the priority system and help the performer with the choice. And now the moment has come when we are introducing the first algorithm into our system of priorities - we will determine the execution order depending on urgency and importance.

    Technically, it is very simple. It is enough to add two fields to the task - urgency and importance, and arrange the queue according to them. For example, calculating the priority of the task in the form of a figure. If the task is urgent, then add 2 conventional units, if important - 1 conventional unit.

    Total, not important and not urgent task will have priority equal to zero. Urgent and not important - 2. Not urgent and important - 1. Urgent and important - 3. Now we sort the list of tasks in descending order of priority, and we get the result - the correct sequence that reflects our strategy.

    The rules for calculating the numbers of urgency and importance are not strict. And, unfortunately, they work only if urgency and importance are assigned to the task thoughtfully, and not just so that they would be done quickly.

    For example, a situation is often encountered where tasks from clients are written by managers and executed by programmers. Managers, having understood the system of priorities, begin to sculpt urgency and importance for all tasks in a row, especially when a specific programmer is not assigned to a manager or client. The manager’s desire to advance his task to the front of the line is understandable, in general, but by his desire to quickly get as many signed acts as possible, he negates all your efforts to build a priority system. And seriously freaks out programmers.

    There are several solutions to this problem.

    First, harder - do not let the manager put urgency and importance. Let him just write down the task. If there are any additional requirements that can affect the priority, let him set out in the description of the task. In fact, suddenly there really urgently? The coordinator, or team leader, or lead programmer in this case will be guided by information from the manager.

    The second option, softer, is to make two assessments of urgency and importance. One - from the manager, the second - from someone who understands something, and calculate the final priority by the sum of conventional units. A maximum of 3 arbitrary units from the manager, and a maximum of 3 from the coordinator. The priority system will become more multifaceted and balanced.

    Well, do not forget the simple rule: there are tasks in the world that are neither urgent nor important. When such regulators as urgency and importance appear, the hand itself and reaches to use them. It seems that something is missing when the urgency and importance are not indicated.

    The lack of urgency and importance of the task is normal. But there is one problem - such a task, theoretically, may never be fulfilled if new ones constantly appear that have at least one conventional priority unit. How to avoid such a situation, let's talk another time.


    • Eisenhower's matrix is ​​a simple tool for determining priorities;
    • Priority is governed by two attributes - urgency and importance;
    • An urgent task is one whose loss from failure is high;
    • An important task is one that affects the future;
    • Urgency prioritizes importance;
    • There are tasks that are not urgent and not important;
    • Priorities work only with the conscious determination of urgency and importance.

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