What is Important is Seldom Urgent

matrix

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Presidential Planning

Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was an American politician and general who served as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. (Source: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Dwight_D._Eisenhower)

In terms of project planning and time management, history yields few masters equal to that of President Eisenhower. There are many methods used for time and project management. President Eisenhower grouped things into simple categories so that he could efficiently and quickly prioritise his tasks/goals. Because of Eisenhower’s great success as a leader, a model was developed from his methods and applied to the business world. The model is known as The Eisenhower Matrix.

The original model is reflected in the four quadrants above. This is a model I personally use and advocate.

Although I am no Eisenhower, I did take it upon myself to alter the bottom right corner. Instead of using it to DELETE tasks or to categorize tasks as “useless”, I use to to track personal projects or 20% Time Projects. After all, if something is useless, it stays outside the box.

My box looks like this:

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Reading the Matrix

The most important thing to remember is that everything cannot be urgent and important. If the majority of your day-to-day work-life is in the upper left quadrant, then something is wrong and out-of-balance.

Most tasks that fall into a person’s normal set of responsibilities should be in the upper right quadrant. Tasks or jobs in the lower left quadrant are often things assigned by a superior, that fall outside of the normal set of responsibilities or they are favours you might be doing for others.

Examples From My Personal Matrix
Important Not Urgent:

  • Develop a new class schedule before March 20th
  • Create a new html template for PowerSchool effort reports by March 18th
  • Review email branding process before April 15th

Notice all of the above have due dates that fall within a 7-30 day period. I have had them in the list for awhile. The deadline is approaching but these are all planned.

Important and Urgent:

  • Buy music software for upcoming performance
  • Develop new Sharepoint email workflow for Human Resources

These items are IT support items which have been assigned to me from other departments.
These need to be completed immediately. I am required to do these tasks, but they were not planned, and the notice was short.

Not Important but Urgent (Delegate):

  • Telescope delivery
  • Hand out ID cards
  • Document archive packaging for accreditation team

These are all jobs anyone in my department can do. All are very time consuming. I need to make certain they are finished, but I should not be doing these myself. Occasionally this quadrant contains a task I am required to do, but is outside of my job scope.

Not Important / Not Urgent /Ideas / 20% Time

  • Redesign interface for PowerSchool Parent Portal
  • Improve code for iTunes based video streaming

These are projects I enjoy doing. If they never get finished, the impact at this point in time will be minimal or nonexistent. The systems impacted are already fully functional. The skills learned from working on projects like these often transfer to other areas. 20% time projects are excellent for professional development and often lead to exciting random discoveries.

Tools for Getting Started

A simple way to apply the Eisenhower Matrix is to use Evernote or OneNote. Office software, such as Excel of LibreCalc, will also work. However, keeping a record of all the data and reflecting on it after the school year can be tricky. I recommended using software like Priority Matrix. The interface is simple, and the software links to Evernote.

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Appfluence Priority Matrix

Last year I produced a list of all the scheduled items I had completed from January to June. I was amazed not only at the variety of projects and jobs I had been involved with, but also how many should have been placed in that lower left quadrant (Delegation). I have used that data to consciously delegate more tasks.

Before beginning, I recommend organising your team together to discuss what types of projects, jobs, etc. would fall into each quadrant. Have each member bring a list of everything they have been working on for the last thirty days. Use that data to fill in the box by reaching group consensus.

If nothing else, the Eisenhower Matrix makes the mind slow down and focus. The matrix forces reflection and constantly reminds users that most things are not urgent, nor important. Stress and circumstance can often cloud judgements and shift focus away from where it should be- Students & Learning.

And remember – Important is Seldom Urgent.

About Tony DePrato

Tony DePrato has a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University and has been working as a Director of Educational Technology since 2009. Currently, he works for St. Johnsbury Academy in Jeju, South Korea. He has worked in the United Arab Emirates and China where he has consulted with schools in both regions on various technology topics. In 2013, Tony DePrato released The BYOD Playbook a free guide for schools looking to discuss or plan a Bring Your Own Device program. Tony is originally from the US, and worked in multimedia, website development, and freelance video production. Tony is married to Kendra Perkins, who is a librarian.
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