How to Do More Without Working Harder (Eisenhower Matrix Explained!) | Iris Reading
How to Do More Without Working Harder (Eisenhower Matrix Explained!)

How to Do More Without Working Harder (Eisenhower Matrix Explained!)

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

The time management technique Eisenhower Matrix teaches you to do more without putting in more work hours. This technique enables you to prioritize better by learning which tasks are worth your time and which ones aren’t. You can plan your work with this information, focusing only on the most critical activities.

This way, you’ll become more productive at work and home. Using the Eisenhower Matrix, you will manage your time better and achieve your goals faster.

This post provides deep insights into the time management matrix.

Read on to learn what it is and how to use it to become more productive.

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

Also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, the Eisenhower Matrix is a time management tool that helps you prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. It allows you to sort out less critical activities and either delegate or not do them.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, invented the world-famous Eisenhower principle. He had to decide on which tasks to prioritize each day continuously. This principle prioritizes tasks by urgency and importance.

The Eisenhower Matrix involves four quadrants with different work strategies:

Quadrant 1: Urgent & Important

Every task in quadrant 1 is urgent and requires quick action. All the items here have visible deadlines, and there are consequences for not tackling them immediately. Urgent and Important tasks usually come from an external source.

Sometimes, they are the result of procrastination. Such tasks come with a looming deadline and require a crisis mode response. Activities in quadrant 1 are inevitable.

Even if you don’t procrastinate, there will always be something beyond your control. Focusing on these unexpected tasks puts you in a reactive mindset. You’ll be stressed and have no time for important tasks that get you closer to your long-term goals.

Quadrant 1 tasks are important but don’t let them stop you from achieving your long-term goals. Plan better to make time for more important activities that pay off in the long run.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent & Important

Important tasks that are not urgent help you reach your long-term goals. Most times, these tasks do not come with deadlines causing people to ignore them for more pressing tasks. But these tasks can significantly impact your long-term effectiveness in achieving your goals.

Although these important tasks have no deadlines, it is best to schedule and complete them at your convenience. If you tackle many quadrant two activities, you’re not focusing on your problems but on opportunities and growth. Having most of your activities in this quadrant puts you in a proactive mindset.

It means you prioritize tasks that develop your skills and contribute toward accomplishing meaningful goals. There are no pressing distractions in quadrant 2, which means you’ll have more time for deep work.

Quadrant 3:  Urgent & Not Important

Urgent but not important tasks are also known as busywork. Most times, people tackle urgent but unimportant tasks to meet expectations from others. Such tasks will not help you achieve your long-term goals, so your best bet is to delegate them.

If most of your tasks live in quadrant 3, you’re spending too much time on someone else’s priorities. You’re most likely doing the work because you feel obligated and not because you want to do it. Focusing on quadrant three tasks can make you feel like you don’t have control over your life.

Quadrant 4:  Not Urgent & Not important

Unimportant tasks without any deadlines are a waste of time. It would be best if you cut them out. Such activities do not impact or move you closer to your goals. 

Quadrant 4 activities provide excess and immediate gratification but leave you feeling disappointed. It is important to go on a vacation and have fun. But this becomes a problem when your leisure time takes priority over important activities that move you closer to your goals.

Be intentional about how you spend your downtime. You want to feel refreshed and not drained after taking a break from work.

Who can benefit from using the Eisenhower Matrix?

The Eisenhower Matrix will benefit students, freelancers, employees, business-oriented people, and anyone looking to get more done within a short period. It is an excellent technique for boosting your productivity levels. You can apply the principle to many different fields other than professional ones.

In essence, the Eisenhower Matrix is a task management tool that can benefit:

  • People who juggle multiple projects simultaneously
  • People who have issues prioritizing tasks
  • People who feel the hours in the day are never enough to get things done.
  •  People who face deadlines throughout the week
  • Busy students looking for an edge through increased productivity
  • Anyone finding it hard to focus on a specific task
  • Busy professionals who want to do more without putting in more hours at work
  • People who are not used to having a daily routine
  • People who want to increase personal productivity and achieve their goals faster.

How does the Eisenhower Matrix work?

The Eisenhower Matrix allows you to manage your projects by organizing and prioritizing tasks by urgency and importance. With this task management tool, you can divide your tasks into four boxes as follows:

  • Box 1 – Tasks you’ll complete first
  • Box 2 – Tasks you’ll schedule for later
  • Box 3 – Tasks you’ll delegate
  • Box 4 – Tasks you’ll delete

It would help if you evaluated where you spend your time. Use a dedicated task management tool to track your time spent for one week. Alternatively, you can track your time in 30-minute increments using a spreadsheet.

Once you finish, organize the tasks you completed into the appropriate quadrant. Keep in mind that you’re arranging these tasks based on your goals. So, while sorting them out, ask yourself if each task is important or urgent to you.

The answer will help you assign each task to the correct quadrant. Once your tasks are sorted out, find out where most of them live. If you have many activities in Quadrant 2, you understand what matters most in your life.

What are the elements of the Eisenhower Matrix?

The elements of the Eisenhower Matrix are four-time quadrants in which you sort the tasks from your to-do list. They include:

  • The 1st quadrant – important and urgent tasks
  • The 2nd quadrant – important and non-urgent tasks
  • The 3rd quadrant – unimportant and urgent tasks
  • The 4th quadrant – unimportant and non-urgent tasks

Sorting tasks can be easy for some people, but others might find themselves mixing up these four quadrants. You may have difficulty distinguishing where a task should go, and priorities differ from person to person.

That’s why you must consider the questions; “is this urgent to me?” and “is this important to me?” when sorting tasks. You want to achieve your goals faster and not someone else’s goals.

Differences between Urgent and Important Tasks

Urgent tasks yield immediate results or consequences when you fail to take action. They are time-sensitive and attention-demanding. People often feel obligated to address pressing activities, putting them in a reactive mindset.

Urgent tasks are not always important. Many mistake urgent tasks for essential tasks because they prefer to focus on short-term problems and solutions. When you put off important tasks for so long, they can become urgent.

Important tasks are those tasks that may not yield immediate results but contribute to your long-term goals. It is better to focus on important tasks because it puts you in a responsive mindset. You’ll feel rational, calm, and open to new ideas.

On the other hand, urgent tasks make you feel rushed, defensive, and narrowly focused. Focus on the long-term if you want to be happy and fulfilled in life.

How to prioritize tasks in the decision matrix

You’re doing a great job if most of your tasks are in quadrant 2. If not, then it is time to rebalance your matrix. Here’s how to prioritize tasks in the decision matrix:

Quadrant 1

If most of your tasks are in quadrant 1, you’ll often feel rushed and anxious. That’s not a good feeling, and you should avoid it. You can reduce the number of quadrant 1 tasks with better planning.

Plan to anticipate and prevent problems. Think about changes you can make to prevent unexpected issues. If you have to collaborate with a colleague, client, or supervisor to improve your workflow, do it.

Find out why you keep having looming deadlines. The answer lies in your planning. Plan better and reduce your Quadrant 1 tasks as much as you can.

Quadrant 3

Quadrant 3 tasks do not help you achieve your long-term goals, but they are urgent tasks. You don’t want to spend too much time doing them. So, you must reduce the number of activities in this quadrant.

To reduce quadrant 3 tasks, you must develop a strategy to delegate these tasks. Eliminate them if possible. Otherwise, limit the amount of time you spend doing these tasks.

You manage quadrant 3 tasks in a way that allows you to complete them in one sitting. This way, you’ll significantly reduce how much time you spend on such tasks. If you’re a manager, delegate Quadrant 3 tasks to your team and focus on more critical tasks.

Quadrant 4

You won’t achieve your goals if you spend most of your time performing non-urgent and unimportant tasks. Quadrant 4 activities can make you feel stressed and dissatisfied. After tracking your time, if you realize that most of your tasks live here, develop a plan to delete them.

Consult your supervisor or colleague. They can help you identify which tasks you must delegate or delete.

Reduce or eliminate the tasks in quadrants 1, 3, and 4. Your goal should be to have most of your activities in quadrant 2. When you spend most of your time performing important tasks, you’ll achieve your long-term goal efficiently.

Advantages of the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix offers several advantages:

Easy to use

The principle does not require any previous knowledge or training. It is easy to understand and use.

Simplifies your projects

By dividing your tasks into four groups, you’ll make them easier to complete. The Eisenhower Matrix also helps you to identify non-urgent and unimportant tasks quickly.

It helps you focus on what’s important

The principle allows you to keep an eye on important and urgent tasks.

You’ll become a better decision-maker

The Eisenhower Matrix helps you become better at making decisions on the spot. The principle enables you to practice self-analysis and teaches better self-awareness. You’ll see the variation in the importance of activities and become better at making decisions.

Improves your time management skills

Eisenhower Matrix is an excellent tool for improving your time management skills. It helps you set priorities in your everyday life. You’ll know what to do immediately, what to schedule, what to delegate, and what not to do.

Boosts your personal and professional productivity

The principle can help you do more in your personal and professional life. You’ll become better at managing your time by prioritizing your daily activities.

Tips for using the Eisenhower Matrix for better time management

You can manage your time better by using the Eisenhower Matrix. Just ensure to practice effective planning, do a weekly review to track your progress, and take a productivity course. Assessing your tasks will help you identify and eliminate time wasters.

Practice effective planning

If you spend too much time performing Quadrant 1 tasks, plan more effectively to avoid problems. Do a review at the end of each week and assess your productivity. This way, you’ll know how well your plan worked and how to adjust it the following week if it fails.

If your urgent tasks come from external sources, plan and anticipate them. Have a proactive workflow with your clients. If you’re an employee, have a conversation with your boss and see if he can reduce your workload.

Sometimes a client might create many urgent tasks for you. Talk to the client about it to avoid spending too much time doing urgent but unimportant tasks.

Identify urgent tasks that are not important and delegate them

Stop focusing on tasks you can delegate. Have someone else do them if those tasks do not move you closer to your long-term goal. This way, you’ll focus on more important tasks and achieve your goals faster.

Write down the required steps to delegate or limit these tasks. You may be the only one who can complete specific tasks. In this case, plan your work to complete such tasks in one sitting.

You’ll reduce the amount of time spent on the tasks when you do this. If you’re always doing repetitive activities, talk to your boss about automating processes.

Learn to identify and eliminate bottlenecks by taking a productivity course

Performing non-urgent and unimportant tasks is a waste of time. Track how you spend your time to identify time wasters. Once you know what eats up your time, you can avoid it.

Iris Reading Productivity Course aims to help you get the most out of your day. You’ll learn to create more time in your day by boosting your productivity. The course comes packed with 33 instructional videos and top productivity apps.

Plan well and avoid procrastinating. The tasks in quadrant 4 are not good for your short or long-term goals. They will derail you from achieving your goals.

It is okay to play video games and chat with family and friends, but not during work hours. Assess your matrix from time to time. Have a routine for deciding and organizing what belongs in each quadrant.

It will only require a few minutes, and you can do it every day or weekly. Add items and remove items to balance the matrix.

Write a list of tasks and categorize them correctly. You can type your to-dos directly into the matrix. It is advisable not to have too many tasks in a quadrant, as planning can be difficult.

Five to eight items per quadrant are enough. You want your focus to be on execution and not planning.

Remain organized

Don’t misplace your Eisenhower matrix. Always keep it in a place that is easily accessible. You can tape it to your desk or put it in a notebook.

The goal is to avoid spending too much time looking for it. In all, make sure you don’t overmanage yourself.


To manage your time better, you need to focus on managing your priorities and resources. It is a smart technique that works because you can’t make more time. You can only improve how you use it.

The Eisenhower Matrix helps you prioritize the most important tasks in your day. By using it every day, you’ll develop the habit of focusing on important tasks, scheduling non-urgent but important tasks, delegating urgent tasks that someone else can handle, and eliminating time wasters. You can get the most out of this principle by planning effectively and staying organized.

Also, you can learn from productivity experts and improve your time management skills. Iris Reading has many courses that help students and professionals achieve peak performance. You can learn practical techniques to memorize key information and remember what you read.

Take the Iris Reading Maximizing Memory course!

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