Solving life problems with matrices: The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Decision making happens to be a great aspect or let’s say a great prospect of our lifetime. We are forced or obliged to make decisions almost every moment in life. Its a continuous journey and we learn along the way.
I am not great at it but I discovered something known as an ‘Eisenhower Decision Matrix’ from the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a 2x2 matrix and under every matrix index, you get to list out your daily or weekly decisions you are about to make.
NOTE: Urgent tasks are the ones that require immediate attention irrespective of value. While Important tasks are the ones that contribute to a larger value irrespective of the time they consume.
PS: To not make it too overwhelming, it is always advisable to list down tasks first before making and inserting them in the matrix as the mere sight of the matrix can play a confirmation bias in your mind and drive you to group irrelevant tasks in a particular index of the matrix.
Grouping tasks/decisions in the Eisenhower Decision Matrix is done according to the criteria as follows (syntax for matrix is as: [row, column]):
- Under Urgent-Important [1, 1]: You list tasks that are both urgent and important for you. These should be your highest priority.
- Under Not Urgent-Important [1, 2]: You list tasks that are not urgent at the moment but are important and have to be considered after tasks in [1, 1].
- Under Urgent-Not Important [2, 1]: Here you list the tasks that are urgent but not very important at the given time. These are tasks that you can outsourced or you can ask some else to do it for you. These can be handled either simultaneously with or after completion of tasks in [1, 2].
- Under Not Urgent — Not Important [2, 2]: Here you honestly try to lists the task that remains outside the other matrix indices. These are either given the last priority or simply eliminated at the end.
Once you are done putting them in the matrix, you know that the top-priority decisions are all in cell [1,1: Urgent-Important] and the priority of decisions to be taken decreases as we go from [1,2: Not Urgent-Important] to [2,1: Urgent-Not Important] to finally [2,2: Not Urgent — Not Important]. By the end of the day, if you are safely able to navigate to [2,1: Urgent-Not Important] it means you are done with all the high-priority decisions/tasks and can move head to either eliminate tasks in [2,2] or delegate them to someone else (or to yourself for the next day/week).
Congrats! You have saved yourself from a huge burnout that could have been caused by working all day mindlessly on mixed tasks.
Takeaway: By listing all your decisions in the Eisenhower Decision matrix you get a better idea of what tasks should consume your time and attention at the respective moment.