What things are not important, but necessary

The Eisenhower Principle - How to Prioritize "Important" and "Urgent"

In the following, each individual quadrant is explained as well as which quadrant we should spend the most time on if we want to do our best and make the most of our lives.

Quadrant 1 of the Eisenhower Principle: Urgent and Important Tasks

The tasks from quadrant 1 are urgent and important. These are tasks that require our immediate attention and also work towards the fulfillment of our long term goals in life.

Quadrant 1 tasks typically consist of crises, problems or deadlines.

Here are some specific examples of urgent and important tasks:

  • Certain emails (could be a job offer, an email for a new business opportunity that requires immediate action, etc.)
  • Project submission deadline
  • Tax date
  • Homework
  • Car engine breaks down
  • Partner urgently needs to be hospitalized
  • You get a call from your child's school and you need to come to an urgent conversation

With a little planning and organization, many Q1 tasks can be made more efficient or even eliminated. For example, instead of waiting until the last minute to work on a term paper (and thereby turning it into an urgent task), you can schedule your time to finish your work a week in advance. And instead of waiting for something in your home to break and need repairs, you can follow a regular maintenance schedule.

Even if we are never able to completely eliminate urgent and important tasks, we can significantly reduce them with a little proactivity and by spending more time in Quadrant 2.

Quadrant 2 of the Eisenhower Principle: Not urgent, but important tasks

The tasks in quadrant 2 are the activities that do not have an urgent deadline, but still help you achieve your important personal and professional goals.

Q2 tasks usually focus on strengthening relationships, planning for the future, and your personal improvement.

Here are some specific examples of non-urgent but important tasks:

  • Weekly planning
  • Long-term planning
  • Strategic Concepts
  • Creation of a budget and savings plan
  • Advanced training
  • fitness
  • Family time
  • Meditate
  • Car and home care
  • Going out with the partner
  • Take a course to improve a skill
  • Take time for a hobby
  • to study
  • Read life-enriching books

You should try to spend most of your time on Q2 activities as they are the ones that will provide you with lasting happiness, fulfillment, and success. Because Q2 activities don't get our attention, we usually keep them in the background of our lives forever and say to ourselves, "I'll get to these things at some point after handling this urgent stuff."

But someday will never come. If you wait to do the important things until your schedule is a little tidy, it won't work. You will always be as busy as you are now, and if anything, life will only get busier as you get older (at least until you retire).

To overcome our inherent present that prevents us from focusing on Quadrant 2 activities, we need to live our lives consciously and proactively. You cannot live your life in standard mode. You have to make a conscious decision: "I will take my time for these things, no matter what the cost".

Quadrant 3 of the Eisenhower Principle: Urgent and unimportant tasks

Quadrant 3 tasks are activities that now (urgently) require our attention, but they do not help us achieve our goals (not important). Most Q3 tasks are interruptions from other people to help them achieve their own goals and to meet their own priorities.

Here are some specific examples of Quadrant 3 activities:

  • Text messaging
  • Calls
  • Most emails (some emails might be urgent and important)
  • Employees who come to your desk during your most productive work hours to ask you a favor
  • Mama comes unannounced and asks for your help

Many people spend most of their time on Q3 assignments thinking all the time that they are working on Q1. Because Q3 assignments help others, they definitely feel important. In addition, there are usually tangible tasks that make you feel satisfied when you complete them.

But while Q3 tasks are important to others, they're not important to you. They're not necessarily bad, but they need to be balanced with your Q2 activities. Otherwise, you'll end up feeling like you've got a lot done day-to-day, but you're not actually making any progress on your own long-term goals. This is a recipe for personal frustration and resentment towards other people.

People who spend most of their time working on urgent but unimportant tasks often suffer from Nice Guy Syndrome and want to please others over and over again at the expense of their own happiness.

Try to delegate as many Q3 tasks as possible to someone else. This saves you a lot of time for other things.