Life is frantic. There are so many daily tasks that seem urgent, and often there is never enough time to do them all. In a world of constant distractions and hustle, how do we prioritise our overwhelming list of tasks?

You see, the problem is not with the list, it’s with the decision-making. When it comes to making decisions, we are all guilty of making one critical error: confusing the urgent with the important. This is where the Eisenhower Decision Matrix comes in.

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is so-named after a quote from esteemed former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He said,


“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower


Wise, eh? Though this principle was certainly his modus operandi, it was not Eisenhower himself who came up with the matrix. It was actually popularised by Stephen Covey in the wildly successful book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘. *Strapped for time? Watch the 1 minute explanatory GIF at the bottom*


How It Works

Using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix is relatively simple; tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent. Once all tasks have been written into the matrix, you can then take action on them in order of priority.

Simply start with the first box and work your way through. Check out the infographic for how tasks are organised using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.


Eisenhower decision matrix decision making principle seven habits of highly successful people Decision Matrix
How Tasks are Organised using Eisenhower Decision Matrix

Breakdown of Each Box

Do not spend more than 5-10 minutes on this task. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Here’s what to put in each quadrant:


Quadrant 1 – Important and Urgent

These are the most important tasks. Once you are finished completing the matrix, you must complete these tasks immediately. Non-negotiable.

For example: ‘Call Credit Card Company About Stolen Card’ or ‘Complete Presentation That’s Due in 3 Hours’


Quadrant 2 – Important but Not Urgent

These are important tasks that don’t necessarily have to be completed right away. Take some time to schedule these in for a later stage when you think you will have time. Be specific. The goal is to not let tasks in this box end up in Quadrant 1 next week.

For example: ‘Call my best friend to catch up during my 30 minute commute home today’ or ‘Begin preparing taxes that are due in a couple of months at 7pm tonight while Mom is with the kids


Quadrant 3 – Not Important but Urgent

These are tasks that seem urgent now, but are actually not important when you think about them. You should take action to reduce these types of time-wasting tasks in the future.

For example: ‘Re-edit my article for the 10th time just to be sure’ or ‘Go through the 1,000 emails in my inbox’ -> take an extra step to reduce the gravity of this task in the future by ensuring to unsubscribe from emails you do not read.


Quadrant 4 – Not Important and Not Urgent

Do everything you can to eliminate and avoid tasks that end up in this box.

For example: ‘Going back to the store for an unnecessary snack’ or ‘Browsing through clothes or cars online that I have no intention of purchasing’.


The Finished Product

When you’re done with your Eisenhower Decision Matrix, it should look something like the infographic below. The next step is to simply start smashing through tasks from Box 1 -4! Repeat everyday until you become a productivity God 😉


Examples of Eisenhower Decision Matrix Urgent Not Urgent Important Not Important
Completed Eisenhower Decision Matrix


TLDR; Follow this simple 1 minute infographic on how to complete the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.


eisenhower decision matrix how to examples infographic
Learn to use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix in 1 Minute


Do you use the Eisenhower decision matrix? How would it benefit you? Let me know about your experience in the comments below 😎

For more time-management tips, why not check out my article on ‘How To Quit Wasting Your Time‘.