Do you feel as if you are constantly running around putting out fires, but come to the end of every day questioning what you’ve actually accomplished? The Eisenhower Focus Matrix might be a good option to help you escape the busy trap and really focus on what tasks will give you the greatest benefits.

To start the Eisenhower Matrix, first break your to-do list down into four separate lists:

  • Urgent and important – like your assignment due tonight
  • Important, but not urgent – like your readings for your class next week
  • Not important, but urgent – like responding to a social media notification
  • Not important and not urgent – like 80 per cent of your email inbox (come on, we know most of it is advertisements)

Try to only keep one list for your school, work, and life to-dos. This way you don’t fall into the trap of constantly prioritizing work emails over equally-important school or looking after yourself.

A grid of four squares divided into urgent & important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, and not urgent & not important

How it works

Anything in the “Urgent and important” category should be done immediately. Like, right now. Try to keep this box as empty as possible – if you find your entire day is full of tasks that are both urgent and important, that might be a sign that you have too much on your plate and need to cut back in some areas or seek out support for some of your bigger tasks.

The goal is to spend the majority of your time on the “Important, but not urgent” list. Schedule a time to complete these tasks, and do your best to stick to your schedule. Remember, breaks and time to just chill count as important, so make sure you schedule time for these things too.

(For help on setting up a schedule that works for you, check out our previous blog Productivity Hack Round-Up)

Remember, breaks and time to just chill count as important, so make sure you schedule time for these things too.

Tasks that are “Not important, but urgent” should be deligated – these are things that, while may be important to some people, just don’t add a lot of value to pursuit of your personal goals or values. If you are a manager at work, for example, assign these tasks to someone who would be better suited for the job.

However, the majority of us don’t have staff that we can assign work to. In these cases, look for apps or other tricks that can take this workload off your shoulders. For example, unsubscribe from newsletters that you never read or use a proofreading software that can help you cut back on the time you spend editing your assignments.

Finally are the tasks that are “Not important and not urgent.” These things aren’t worth your time. It takes some practice, and in some cases some bravery, to put tasks in this column but at the end of the day making these decisions will help you focus on what really matters. Sure, blogging about the Bachelor seemed like a great idea at the time, but now you’re getting no enjoyment out of writing, scheduling, and then promoting your posts (and you didn’t even want to be a writer to begin with!) Maybe it’s time to say goodbye.

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.

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