This week I was reminded of the Eisenhower Matrix by one of my business mentors. We were considering how we approach our tasks in order to achieve our goals. So whether we place them as urgent and/or important (or not). The most effective way to use our time is to spend it on the things which we find important but not urgent, i.e. those things we value like building relationships or keeping ourselves fit and healthy. It also includes planning our goals and creating actions to complete them.
However, the two common ways we spend our time are on the urgent and important tasks e.g. when a phone rings or a fire alarm goes off and you need to evacuate. The other is on those tasks which are neither urgent or important e.g. scrolling through social media or watching TV.
The final part of the matrix is those tasks which are urgent but not important e.g. answering emails, making calls or other interruptions.
Anxiety and completing our goals
I posted this on social media:
It got me thinking about anxiety and how it can interfere with our tasks. For some people, their anxiety places all tasks in the urgent and important box. This means it can be difficult to differentiate which are genuinely urgent. It can also cause us to feel overwhelmed. (I am certainly guilty of this sometimes.)
For others, it can paralyse us into spending our time on things that are neither urgent or important. That can make us feel like we’re not achieving anything.
This statement attracted a number of responses saying that this resonated. So many of us can’t prioritise their lists as they don’t know where to start as it all seems so urgent. This often propels us into the distractions! It’s a vicious cycle.
Achieving our goals
So what to do? I recommend to my clients that they think about what’s really important to them i.e. your values. It’s likely that these will fall into the important but not urgent box. Focus on this one. These things won’t be quick but they’ll be worth it. These activities help you achieve your personal and professional goals and complete important work. To stay on track you will need to plan your time carefully so that your tasks don’t slip into becoming urgent.
You needn’t worry about the urgent and important tasks. Why? Because you will have to and you will deal with those crises as they arrive. For example, if the fire alarm does go off, you will leave the building safely until you know it’s safe to return. You don’t sit there wondering if you should just finish off that email?!
Finally, a big part of this is setting and managing your boundaries. So whether you delegate those urgent but not important tasks to someone else or you set up alarms to cut down your distractions. It’s OK to watch TV or scroll through social media as long as you’re doing it with some kind of purpose e.g. because it’s your favourite show. The danger comes when it becomes mindless.
If you’re doing a task or you’re about to, consider which box it falls into. Also, consider the effect on your mental health and choose wisely. We all spend time in all the boxes but *it’s OK to say no* and step back to reflect on what’s best for you.