Balancing Urgent and Important Tasks with Eisenhower’s Principle

We all face the daily struggle of managing our time and dealing with competing demands. Some tasks feel extremely urgent, others feel meaningful and important. How do we decide what to focus on and get it all done? Eisenhower’s urgent/important principle provides a simple yet effective framework to determine priorities and take control of your schedule.

Understanding Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Matrix

The Eisenhower matrix, also referred to as the urgency/importance matrix, was created and used by Dwight D. Eisenhower during his time as Supreme Allied Commander in WWII. Eisenhower needed a system to effectively prioritize all of the tasks, problems, and demands coming his way.

The matrix divides tasks into four categories based on two criteria urgency and importance

  • Urgent and Important – Tasks that require immediate attention and have meaningful impact. Deadlines, crises pressing issues.

  • Not Urgent but Important – Tasks that are meaningful but don’t demand immediate attention. Planning, relationship building, personal development.

  • Urgent but Not Important – Tasks that feel pressing but don’t align with your goals. Interruptions, other people’s minor demands.

  • Not Important and Not Urgent – Tasks with little meaning or impact. Busywork, trivial demands, time wasters.

The core idea is to spend more time on important activities, even if they are not urgent. And reduce focus on merely urgent or unimportant tasks.

How to Use Eisenhower’s Matrix for Better Time Management

Follow these steps to start using the Eisenhower Matrix:

  • Make a list of all your current tasks and responsibilities.

  • Sort each task into one of the four categories: urgent/important, not urgent/important, urgent/not important, not urgent/not important.

  • Plan your schedule and tackle tasks using these priorities:

    • Urgent and important – Do these tasks first. Deadlines, crises, demands from others.

    • Not urgent but important – Schedule time for these meaningful activities. Plan ahead, set goals, develop skills.

    • Urgent but not important – Try to reduce focus on these. Delegate or reschedule less critical demands.

    • Not urgent and not important – Minimize time on these. Politely decline or remove trivial tasks if possible.

  • Each day, assess your priorities and follow the matrix. Adjust as new urgent/important tasks emerge.

  • Reflect on how well you are spending time on what matters most. Make adjustments to schedule more important priorities.

Tips for Making Eisenhower’s Principle Work For You

Here are some additional tips for making the most of Eisenhower’s urgent/important matrix:

  • Review regularly – Your priorities will change. Re-assess the matrix daily or weekly to stay on track.

  • Focus your schedule – Block time for important tasks first. Schedule urgent tasks as needed.

  • Limit interruptions – Reduce distractions to focus quality time on key priorities.

  • Delegate when possible – Assign less critical urgent tasks to others.

  • Tackle hardest tasks first – Get important priorities done when you have the most energy.

  • Create habits and routines – Routinize key non-urgent activities so they consistently get done.

  • Say no respectfully – Decline unnecessary tasks and favors that don’t align with your goals.

Benefits of Using Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle

Applying Eisenhower’s matrix can lead to significant benefits:

  • Less stress – Focus your energy on what really matters. Worry less about trivial demands.

  • More meaningful work – Invest time in activities aligned with your values, passions, and long term goals.

  • Improved relationships – Make time for people important to you instead of constantly reacting to others’ minor needs.

  • Greater productivity – Accomplish more high-value tasks that move the needle on key priorities.

  • Better health – Experience less burnout from urgent demands and spend energy on fulfilling activities.

  • Increased confidence – Feel a sense of control over your schedule. Accomplish goals that are important to you.

  • Career advancement – Invest time developing key skills needed for future promotions.

The bottom line is that Eisenhower’s matrix provides a timeless, essential framework to help you focus on what matters – whether in work, relationships, or your personal life. Evaluate your priorities, schedule deliberately, and align your time with what is truly urgent and important. The payoff can be huge in terms of productivity, purpose, and peace of mind.

eisenhowers urgent vs important principle

Quadrant 3:  Urgent & Not Important

Urgent but Not Important tasks are best described as busy work. These tasks are often based on expectations set by others and do not move you closer to your long-term goals.


  • Unnecessary interruptions from coworkers
  • Checking your phone or email whenever it goes off
  • Responding to certain texts, emails, or social media messages
  • Acting on coupons or limited time offers
  • Some meetings

Quadrant 3 is where the mere urgency effect lives. The drive to complete tasks because of real or assumed deadlines means you take on tasks that aren’t actually meaningful to you. Given that Q3 tasks are urgent but typically related to someone elses priorities, spending too much time in this square can feel like you are doing things you should do rather than what you want to do. Focus on Q3 tasks may make you feel like you are not living up your larger life goals or don’t have control over your day-to-day life.

Covey suggests delegating as many Q3 tasks as possible. Can you have someone else take those meeting notes? Can you get your groceries delivered instead of going to the store? Can you empower your children to do the dishes? Can you hire a digital assistant to schedule family doctor visits? Is there anything in your life you can automate?

If you can’t delegate these tasks, try to keep them from taking over your day:

  • Turn off notifications on your phone and computer when working
  • Be clear with others about how much time you can spend on a given task
  • Save Q3 tasks for times when you are very low on energy rather than putting them first thing in the morning
  • Negotiate your workload with your boss
  • Practice saying no

For more tips on getting out of Q3, learn how to Vanquish Busywork and Spend More Time on What Matters.

eisenhowers urgent vs important principle

Avoid the “Urgency Trap” with Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous prioritization framework

eisenhowers urgent vs important principle

Todoist est le premier gestionnaire de tâches au monde pour organiser votre travail et votre vie. En savoir plus

Dwight D. Eisenhower — a five-star general during World War II and 34th president of the United States — was a productive guy.

During his two terms as president of the United States, he led the construction of the Interstate Highway System, created NASA, signed into law the first major piece of civil rights legislation since the end of the Civil War, ended the Korean War, welcomed Alaska and Hawaii into the union, and managed to keep the Cold War with Russia cold.

And he did it all with panache — Eisenhower was Gallup’s most admired man of the year no less than twelve times.

How was Eisenhower able to rack up so many accomplishments that would have such a lasting impact on his country and the world? He understood the fundamental difference between the Urgent and the Important. In a 1954 speech, Eisenhower quoted an unnamed university president who said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Over 3 decades later in his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey repackaged Eisenhower’s insights into a simple tool to prioritize tasks, now known as the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as The Time Management Matrix, The Eisenhower Box, The Eisenhower Method, and The Urgent-Important Matrix). This framework for prioritization helps you combat the “mere-urgency” effect (more on that later), eliminate time-wasters in your life, and create more mental space to make progress on your goals.

The Eisenhower matrix: How to manage your tasks with EISENHOWER

What is Eisenhower principle?

The “Eisenhower Principle” is a way of prioritizing your tasks based on urgency and importance. What Is the Eisenhower Matrix? The Eisenhower Matrix is a frequently used term for the division of activities into four categories: important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent.

What is Eisenhower’s urgent vs important principle?

Eisenhower’s urgent vs important principle provides a way to organize tasks based on their nature and importance to help improve productivity. Understanding how to use this principle can not only help you get important tasks done, but can also help prevent procrastination and help you accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively.

How can Eisenhower’s urgent vs important principle help prevent procrastination?

Using the Eisenhower’s urgent vs important principle can aid in preventing procrastination by aligning your tasks in a processable, orderly way. Understanding where tasks go on your priority list can help prevent procrastination and boost your work efficiency in the future.

How do I evaluate my tasks using the Eisenhower Method?

Once you’ve set up Todoist to work with the Eisenhower Method, you can begin to evaluate your tasks. Click your new Eisenhower Matrix filters to review your tasks by quadrant. For Q1: Important & Urgent, p1: Review your upcoming tasks and make a plan to complete these items first. For Q2: Important & Not Urgent, p2:

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