Eisenhower Was a Very Astute Man. And did you know that he came up with the Urgent/Important Matrix before Dr Stephen Covey? I didn’t, until I was reading the ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) magazine Edge several years ago.
Eisenhower said ‘An intellectual is a man who takes more words than is necessary to tell more than he knows.’
The Urgent/Important Matrix is about using time effectively, not just efficiently, and in my experience the more effectively you use time the more efficient you become
In this day and age there just never seems to be enough time. Is this really true?
How often have you taken time out to ‘Stop and Stare’? And perhaps realise what you are doing is getting you nowhere. We’re anxious, we can’t concentrate, everything gets in the way, and then, we simply blow. We tell ourselves that we can do so much because we have so many ‘labour saving’ devices, smartphones, PCs, laptops, we can be contacted anywhere at any time.
In spite of all these gadgets and online calendars (that everyone can set us up appointments with (if we let them) – do we really mange our time efficiently?
Do we spend our time on things that are important and not just urgent? It’s important to distinguish between important and just urgent.
- Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
- Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals (ah had you noticed that?).
We often concentrate on just urgent activities. The things that make the most noise, the things that demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
The Urgent/Important Matrix is a useful tool for thinking about this.
Eisenhower said, ‘What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.’ This so-called “Eisenhower Principle” is purported to be how Eisenhower organized his tasks. Dr Stephen Covey made the idea more public in his business classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Covey called it the “The Urgent/Important Matrix” It is something I use myself regularly and I encourage my clients to use it too, because it works in reminding us what is really important.
The Urgent/Important Matrix is a powerful way to use to think about priorities. Using it helps you prevent the natural tendency to focus on urgent activities, so that you learn to keep enough time to focus on what’s really important. This is the way you move from “fire fighting”, into a position where you can grow your business and your career.
This is how it works:
Divide an A 4 page into 4 as below
Deadline driven projects
Recognising new appointments
Interruptions, some phone calls
Some mail, some reports
Proximate, pressing matters
Trivia, busy work
Some phone calls
Assess the importance to all the activities on a scale of 1 to 5
Remember Eisenhower also said: ‘Leadership – the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.’ (Words that Change Minds – the LAB Profile – the language of influence is useful for facilitating this)
When people see you are clear about your objectives and boundaries, they will generally not ask you to do ‘not important’ activities in the future, and at best do it themselves or find someone else.