Success with Eisenhower Matrix?

Cpu_Modern

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I am unsure how that matrix could help me with processing the inbox. Eisenhower asks "Is it important?" - yeah, but how do I define "important?"
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I am unsure how that matrix could help me with processing the inbox. Eisenhower asks "Is it important?" - yeah, but how do I define "important?"
True -- importance can be relative. However, there are inherent priorities in everyone's life - both career and personal. This is where this type of thinking helps.
 

OF user

Registered
For the last few months I’ve been putting a more conscious focus around the Eisenhower Matrix during the processing stage. I do this mostly as a mental filter, not in an explicit tool.

Curious if any of you have built a similar habit and how it works for you?

More info... https://www.joshwalsh.com/productivity/eisenhower-matrix

I think the Eisenhower/Covey matrix can work in a minority of instances. Generally, if your job is of a support or consultative nature, you are overrun by Q1 and Q3, because you cannot ignore Q3. I find the idea of delegating all Q3 a bit ridiculous. "Hey you, take care of all my lousy Q3 items so I can be more productive." I think a weekly review of your projects and a monthly review of your horizons accomplishes just as much with a lot less overhead.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
I think the Eisenhower/Covey matrix can work in a minority of instances. Generally, if your job is of a support or consultative nature, you are overrun by Q1 and Q3, because you cannot ignore Q3. I find the idea of delegating all Q3 a bit ridiculous. "Hey you, take care of all my lousy Q3 items so I can be more productive." I think a weekly review of your projects and a monthly review of your horizons accomplishes just as much with a lot less overhead.
I’ve tried the urgent/important thing and found it not particularly helpful. Delegating all of Q3 is not realistic. As David Allen says, “you need cat food or you don’t.” If I was out of cat food and had a cat, calling it urgent and important does not help me get it done. It just has to be done today, that’s all. If it’s only urgent, who do I delegate to? The cat?
 

Gardener

Registered
I'm engaging in a thought exercise, with very prosaic items to put in the matrix.

- Cat food: If you're out of cat food, important and urgent.

- Cat food: If you're not out of cat food, important and not urgent.


Here, I would say that this can provide some visibility into items that can be prevented from becoming urgent. It could spawn a project about not running out of urgent household supplies. Maybe that project would include clearing off some shelves in the garage as a place to store modest stockpiles, and creating monthly ticklers for checking the supply levels. That project isn't urgent, but it's important, in the sense of avoiding future urgency.

Now, there are a thousand OTHER ways to get to, and act on, the idea of, "Rushing out for emergency supplies is a waste of time," but if the Eisenhower Matrix got you there, cool.

- Choosing and buying a pair of those folding travel dress shoes: Not important, not urgent.

- Choosing and buying a new pair of walking shoes: Important and urgent.


I just want the folding shoes so that my luggage is a tiny bit less bulky and heavy. And because they seem like a fun idea. Meh.

But my walking shoes were wearing out and hurting my feet, and so I wasn't walking places and wasn't getting that incidental exercise. And if I get out of the walking habit, it's hard to get myself back into it.

I had a day off Friday. I didn't want to "go shopping", but I recognized the importance of that second item--as a result of this discussion! And I went and got a new pair of walking shoes. Half an hour. I begrudged the half hour doing something I didn't wanna do on my day off, but it was well worth it. If those shoes had just been buried on a "clothes I'd like to have list" including, for example, the folding travel shoes, I wouldn't have them today.

- More perennial flowers to brighten up the vegetable garden: Important and not urgent.

- Planting another bed of beans in the vegetable garden: Important and urgent.


Now, this rests on preexisting "importance" decisions. I've already decided that the vegetable garden is important. I already know that there's a level of "pretty" that I need to keep me motivated to work on the garden, and I discovered this year that, no, I just won't tend annual flowers. So the flowers are important, but I'm not going to flee the garden today if they aren't planted, and in fact they're not going to pay off much, possibly at all, this year. I can plant them any time between now and November for pretty much the same end result next spring. (In fact, waiting for the rainy season might mean a better result.)

But snap beans from the garden are very important to us, and we're running out the clock on planting more beds to keep the succession going. So I want to get them planted before Sunday. This involves several tasks, because the next bean beds aren't prepped. So all the tasks to get them prepped--lifting the volunteer potato plant and hopefully keeping the potatoes in an edible condition, weeding, forking, perhaps composting--are "urgent and important" because they're aimed at an urgent and important goal. Without that consciousness, I might amble around the garden weeding and prepping other things.

There are, of course, levels of important. All of these (well, maybe except for the cat food when you're out) might be shoved off the table by something more important and more urgent. But I still think it's a worthwhile thought exercise.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
I'm engaging in a thought exercise, with very prosaic items to put in the matrix.

- Cat food: If you're out of cat food, important and urgent.

- Cat food: If you're not out of cat food, important and not urgent.


Here, I would say that this can provide some visibility into items that can be prevented from becoming urgent. It could spawn a project about not running out of urgent household supplies. Maybe that project would include clearing off some shelves in the garage as a place to store modest stockpiles, and creating monthly ticklers for checking the supply levels. That project isn't urgent, but it's important, in the sense of avoiding future urgency.

Now, there are a thousand OTHER ways to get to, and act on, the idea of, "Rushing out for emergency supplies is a waste of time," but if the Eisenhower Matrix got you there, cool.

- Choosing and buying a pair of those folding travel dress shoes: Not important, not urgent.

- Choosing and buying a new pair of walking shoes: Important and urgent.


I just want the folding shoes so that my luggage is a tiny bit less bulky and heavy. And because they seem like a fun idea. Meh.

But my walking shoes were wearing out and hurting my feet, and so I wasn't walking places and wasn't getting that incidental exercise. And if I get out of the walking habit, it's hard to get myself back into it.

I had a day off Friday. I didn't want to "go shopping", but I recognized the importance of that second item--as a result of this discussion! And I went and got a new pair of walking shoes. Half an hour. I begrudged the half hour doing something I didn't wanna do on my day off, but it was well worth it. If those shoes had just been buried on a "clothes I'd like to have list" including, for example, the folding travel shoes, I wouldn't have them today.

- More perennial flowers to brighten up the vegetable garden: Important and not urgent.

- Planting another bed of beans in the vegetable garden: Important and urgent.


Now, this rests on preexisting "importance" decisions. I've already decided that the vegetable garden is important. I already know that there's a level of "pretty" that I need to keep me motivated to work on the garden, and I discovered this year that, no, I just won't tend annual flowers. So the flowers are important, but I'm not going to flee the garden today if they aren't planted, and in fact they're not going to pay off much, possibly at all, this year. I can plant them any time between now and November for pretty much the same end result next spring. (In fact, waiting for the rainy season might mean a better result.)

But snap beans from the garden are very important to us, and we're running out the clock on planting more beds to keep the succession going. So I want to get them planted before Sunday. This involves several tasks, because the next bean beds aren't prepped. So all the tasks to get them prepped--lifting the volunteer potato plant and hopefully keeping the potatoes in an edible condition, weeding, forking, perhaps composting--are "urgent and important" because they're aimed at an urgent and important goal. Without that consciousness, I might amble around the garden weeding and prepping other things.

There are, of course, levels of important. All of these (well, maybe except for the cat food when you're out) might be shoved off the table by something more important and more urgent. But I still think it's a worthwhile thought exercise.
I want to be clear that I personally fully embrace priority, due dates and scheduling. Things 3, which I use, supports them and I use them fully. But the Eisenhower matrix, as a conceptual framework, doesn't work at all for me. I've tried it many times, and it doesn't help so it doesn't last with me. Your mileage may vary.

Gardener, your examples are interesting. For one thing, there are no examples of urgent but not important. Maybe you don't have many. There are things I don't like to do that I have to do, so I do them. Doing them as quickly as possible is a strategy that often works well for me, but it doesn't fit the Eisenhower matrix well. So if they have a deadline, they get a deadline. If I think I had better get them done soon, they get a star (Things 3 has essentially one level of priority, which makes them stand out and puts actions on a Today list). Items which are important get a star too. So the Today list has everything I have to get done/need to get done/ want to get done today, if I want to use it. Honestly, I don't think about any of this too much, and that is my goal.
 

TesTeq

Registered
I want to be clear that I personally fully embrace priority, due dates and scheduling. Things 3, which I use, supports them and I use them fully.
Priorities in Things 3? As far as I know there are no real priorities - only workarounds:
1) Tags (for example the "Important" default tag).
2) Time-based (Today, This Evening, Upcoming, Anytime, Someday).
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Priorities in Things 3? As far as I know there are no real priorities - only workarounds:
1) Tags (for example the "Important" default tag).
2) Time-based (Today, This Evening, Upcoming, Anytime, Someday).
2) I don't consider this a workaround. There are 3 ways something ends up with a star in the Anytime view, and is thus visible in the today view:
a) You mark it as something you want to do today.
b) It is scheduled to start on today (and has not appeared in Anytime until today).
c) It has a deadline of today.

If you do not do something with a star today, it keeps the star and remains on the Today list until done. (This is how Wunderlist works to.) If you remove the star then a) and b) remain on Anytime but not Today;
on the other hand, c) will pick up a star tomorrow because the deadline has passed. So the star is not
really very time-based at all.

1) If by priorities, you mean 1-3 or 1-5 AND sort by priority, then no. But here in gad-land, we know that
sorting by priority is not a best practice, yes?
 

Gardener

Registered
For one thing, there are no examples of urgent but not important. Maybe you don't have many. There are things I don't like to do that I have to do, so I do them.
But if you HAVE to do them, aren't they important? I realize that the importance may be external--a timewasting task with no inherent value may only be important because if you don't do it you'll get fired, but I'd say that's still important.

To me, urgent but not important means that if I'm going to do them I'd better do them right away, but if I just don't do them at all...meh. "Unimportant", to me, means that it's subject to being cut.

Examples!

If my upcoming trip to Europe were in two days, those folding shoes would be urgent but unimportant--to get the desired value from the task I have to do it right away, but if I don't do it at all, that's OK.

The quarterly fifty dollar coupon from the hardware store is urgent but unimportant--if we don't use it, we lose out on that value, but since there's nothing we need from the hardware store that we can't afford to buy later, it's probably not important enough for us to respond to the urgency, if we're otherwise busy.

For some people, watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones the night it aired might have been urgent but unimportant--if their coworkers would be talking spoilers all day at the office, they would experience a consequence for not watching it in time. But if they didn't care that much about the consequence--urgent but unimportant.

Planting Copra onions this year was urgent but unimportant--I passed the date when they had to be planted, and it wasn't a tragedy.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
But if you HAVE to do them, aren't they important? I realize that the importance may be external--a timewasting task with no inherent value may only be important because if you don't do it you'll get fired, but I'd say that's still important.

To me, urgent but not important means that if I'm going to do them I'd better do them right away, but if I just don't do them at all...meh. "Unimportant", to me, means that it's subject to being cut.

Examples!

If my upcoming trip to Europe were in two days, those folding shoes would be urgent but unimportant--to get the desired value from the task I have to do it right away, but if I don't do it at all, that's OK.

The quarterly fifty dollar coupon from the hardware store is urgent but unimportant--if we don't use it, we lose out on that value, but since there's nothing we need from the hardware store that we can't afford to buy later, it's probably not important enough for us to respond to the urgency, if we're otherwise busy.

For some people, watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones the night it aired might have been urgent but unimportant--if their coworkers would be talking spoilers all day at the office, they would experience a consequence for not watching it in time. But if they didn't care that much about the consequence--urgent but unimportant.

Planting Copra onions this year was urgent but unimportant--I passed the date when they had to be planted, and it wasn't a tragedy.
Shoes: Too much up-front thinking for me. I would just star the shoes, and do it or not do it. If I really needed the shoes, then it would have a deadline the day before the trip.

As for TV shows: I agree, Quadrant 3- I have delegated all my urgent TV watching to somebody else. I'm just not sure who.

Coupons: 99% of the time we have the luxury of forgetting about them. Not worth the time. Kind of like the deals on Prime Day. $50 is a pretty good coupon though. Which hardware store do you use? You must be a Super Platinum frequent gardener.

By the way, I hope you have tomatoes. A vegetable garden has to have tomatoes.
 

OF user

Registered
The Eisenhower matrix makes sense and has value as a way of judging the priority of tasks and outcomes. As a tool (that you actually use either on paper or built into an app) , it is too cumbersome to use and you could have made any of the example decisions above without using the matrix as a tool.
 

TesTeq

Registered
1) If by priorities, you mean 1-3 or 1-5 AND sort by priority, then no. But here in gad-land, we know that sorting by priority is not a best practice, yes?
Yes, I agree but it wasn't me who wrote "I want to be clear that I personally fully embrace priority, due dates and scheduling. Things 3, which I use, supports them and I use them fully." ;)
Things 3 implementation seems to be reasonable but since its priority scheme is base on dates it creates "automatic Today overload". As far as I understand @DavidAllen created Next Action lists to avoid this phenomenon.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Yes, I agree but it wasn't me who wrote "I want to be clear that I personally fully embrace priority, due dates and scheduling. Things 3, which I use, supports them and I use them fully." ;)
Things 3 implementation seems to be reasonable but since its priority scheme is base on dates it creates "automatic Today overload". As far as I understand @DavidAllen created Next Action lists to avoid this phenomenon.
The label “Today” is misleading. You star items and they have a star and appear on the Today list. If you don’t do them on the day you starred them, nothing happens. Deadlines, on the other hand, turn red. You can work from the Anytime view and see every next action, or from the Today view and focus.
 

TesTeq

Registered
The label “Today” is misleading. You star items and they have a star and appear on the Today list. If you don’t do them on the day you starred them, nothing happens. Deadlines, on the other hand, turn red. You can work from the Anytime view and see every next action, or from the Today view and focus.
One tip for Things 3 for iOS that I've discovered:
Q: How can you export all Actions and Projects to PDF?
A: Attach a "!print" tag (or any tag, the name doesn't matter) to EVERYTHING. Then "Quick Find" "!print" and "Share" the list to "Save PDF to Books" or "Print".
 
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