What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important

The Eisenhower Matrix is a presidential insight about productivity: soon after Eisenhower became president, he visited the campus of Northwestern University to deliver an address. What he said changed the thinking about “productivity” forever.

He said: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

The Eisenhower Matrix

It was this quote that gave birth to what is known—in productivity circles—as the “Eisenhower Matrix.” This matrix is made up of four quadrants: Important and urgent, Important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent

Stephen Covey developed this productivity concept in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” As a leader, you can use this matrix in your daily life to be more effective.

Seek the Important and Not Urgent Quadrant

It’s not hard to understand that the Important and Not Urgent projects are the ones that will make the biggest impact toward you reaching your goals, these are the activities that contribute to your mission, and align with your values.

Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to prioritize these projects. Important matters that aren’t urgent require more initiative. You must act to seize opportunity—to make things happen.

What is the long-term impact of acting or not acting today?

One of my favorite ways to change my mindset about these projects and act on the important is to think about the longer term impact of acting on these projects today:

  • If I delay making a decision today how will it impact my ability to reach my goals 6-12 months down the road?
  • Are the urgent activities that are pulling my attention in alignment with my values?
  • If I were living my mission would I take the initiative to act today?  

Today, take a few minutes to build your own Eisenhower Matrix and start observing where you’re spending your time and energy. Get some clarity about what is important by asking yourself these questions:

  • What one thing could you do, that you’re not doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?
  • What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?