Planning

  • How to Accomplish Your Most Important Task Every Day Using the Eisenhower Matrix

    How to Accomplish Your Most Important Task Every Day Using the Eisenhower Matrix

     

    I don’t know about you, but I almost always have more on my to-do list than I can possibly get done. I write my daily to-do list in my daily planner. I also have a running to-do list in Asana of tasks that haven’t made it onto my calendar yet. And let me tell you, I’ve always had a really freaking hard time figuring out which of those tasks need to be at the top of the list.

    I’ll admit that on quite a few occasions, this indecision has led to procrastination. It’s not that I don’t want to get to work. I just don’t know where to start!

    The Eisenhower Matrix has become my favorite way to narrow down my to-do list and figure out which tasks really need my attention.

    In this post, I’ll be sharing how you can use the Eisenhower Matrix (otherwise known as the Eisenhower Box) to accomplish your most important and urgent tasks every single day.

     

    How to Accomplish Your Most Important Task Every Day Using the Eisenhower Matrix

     

    What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

    The Eisenhower Matrix was made famous by Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. He was known for being incredibly productive, and the Eisenhower Matrix is the tool he used to manage his tasks.

    The Eisenhower Matrix has four quadrants that break down your tasks into four categories:

    • Important and urgent
    • Important, but not urgent
    • Urgent, but not important
    • Neither important nor urgent

    Here’s a look at what the Eisenhower Matrix looks like:

    The Difference Between Urgent and Important

    Before we dive into how the Eisenhower Matrix works, let’s first talk about the difference between urgent and important tasks.

    Way too often, people confuse the two. We assume that anything that’s urgent must also be important. And even worse, we assume that tasks that aren’t urgent just aren’t important.

    There’s a quote from President Eisenhower that says, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

    Most of the time this is true!

    Important tasks are those that allow us to be proactive toward achieving our goals, both personal and professional.

    Urgent tasks, on the other hand, are reactive. We’re reacting to something in our lives that is demanding immediate attention, even when it may not be important enough to warrant that attention.

    Knowing the difference between these two is the true goal of the Eisenhower Matrix.

     

    How the Eisenhower Matrix Works

    Important and Urgent

    The first box of the matrix is for tasks that are both important and urgent. Not only are they time-sensitive, but they’ll also likely have a significant impact in the long run.

    These are the tasks that should be moved to the top of your to-do list! In your business, they would probably be the big money-making tasks such as closing a sale.

    Personal emergencies would also be both important and urgent, and would immediately become your top priority.

    The tasks that go in this quadrant are probably also energy and time-intensive tasks. They’re the ones you procrastinate starting because you know how much work they’ll be, but they’re totally necessary because they are what moves the needle in your business.

    When I’m crafting my schedule every day, I always try to make sure these are the tasks I work on first thing in the morning. That is the time of day I have the most energy and motivation, so I know they’ll get my best work then.

    I would never recommend saving these tasks for the end of the day because if something comes up that pushes you off course, you won’t get them done.

     

    Important, Not Urgent

    The tasks in the second quadrant of the matrix are important, but not necessarily urgent. These tasks will certainly have a big impact in the long-run, but they don’t need to be done immediately.

    In your career, this would include the time you invested to get your degree. In your business, this would be your long-term business strategy and future product launches.

    In your personal life, maintaining relationships is important. Making time to spend with those you love may not be time-sensitive, but it certainly has a great impact in the long-run.

    This quadrant would also include the things you do to maintain your health. Exercising and healthy eating may not be urgent, and often they get moved to the bottom of our to-do lists, but in the long-run, they’re incredibly important.

    The tasks that fall into this category often get put off in favor of urgent tasks. But in the long-run, these are the tasks that are going to help you reach your goals – so make time for them! If they aren’t on your calendar, add them.

    I always make sure these tasks are scheduled on my calendar ahead of time, that way I’m not likely to set them aside in favor of something else.

    For example, I schedule my workouts on the calendar one week at a time. When the time comes to work out, I’m pretty unlikely to talk myself out of it because there’s nothing else I should be working on during that time. I’ve made a commitment to myself and I’m going to keep it!

     

    Urgent, Not Important

    The tasks in the third quadrant are urgent, but they aren’t important. However, they are mistaken for being important tasks way too often! This quadrant includes tasks such as answering phone calls and responding to emails.

    People way too often think that because these tasks are “urgent”, they have to do them right away. Well, I’ve got good news – you don’t have to do them right away!

    Think about phone calls. When the phone rings, it’s urgent. You only have a limited amount of time to answer it before the call gets sent to voicemail.

    But how often do you get a phone call that you would consider important? For me, the answer is almost never. And so I don’t answer the phone when I’m working on something else.

    The exception would be if my fiance or a family member is calling during a time I know they would only be calling in the case of an emergency – then it’s important as well as urgent!

    These tasks can be scheduled for later. But even better, they can be delegated.

    In the example of the phone calls, you’re “delegating” that task to your voicemail. In other cases, it might be an actual person you’re delegating to.

     

    Neither Important Nor Urgent

    Let’s be honest, most of us fill our calendars with a lot of things that aren’t necessary as well. Some of these we do as a form of laziness or procrastination, and some we do because we genuinely think they’re important, but they really aren’t.

    Things like watching TV and scrolling through social media are activities we know aren’t important or urgent, but we spend a lot of time on them anyway. I’m not saying you should never do these things! Having balance in life is important, and it’s fine if those are activities you want to enjoy in your free time (I certainly do!) – but don’t use them as a crutch for laziness or productivity during work time.

    There are also some activities that fall into this quadrant that you might think you need to be doing, but when you think about it, they really aren’t important or urgent.

    When I started blogging, there were a lot of tasks I made time for because I read they were things I “should” be doing. But they didn’t benefit my business at all or bring me any closer to my goals. By identifying the tasks that weren’t having an impact, I was able to eliminate them from my to-do list.

    The good news is you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time by getting rid of these tasks!

     

    How to Use the Eisenhower Matrix in Your Own Life

    Hopefully, you’re reading this and thinking the Eisenhower Matrix sounds like exactly what you need to finally organize your freaking to-do list. But how do you go about using it in your own life? Here are some practical tips for applying the Eisenhower Matrix to your tasks.

    1. Make a list of every project and activity you have to do. Try to be super comprehensive, even for tasks that don’t seem relevant. Anything that takes up your time is relevant here! Include tasks for both your professional and personal life.

    2. Assign each task to a quadrant on the Eisenhower Matrix. You can just use paper and pencil to sort them. Be honest with yourself to avoid elevating the importance of any task. A good way to do this is to honestly ask yourself, “What is the immediate result of this task?” If the immediate result is your child being fed when they need to be or closing a sale in your business, that task is pretty darn urgent and important!

    3. Cross off every task in Quadrant 4. These tasks are neither urgent nor important, and you should only be giving them your energy during downtime.

    4. Create a plan for tasks in Quadrant 3. Is there a person, app, service, etc. that can do this task for you?

    5. Pull out your calendar and schedule your tasks for the week. Tasks that you put in Quadrants 1 and 2 should be added right to your calendar. Scheduling them for a specific time ensures they actually get done!

    6. Eliminate distractions. When you’re working on the tasks on your calendar, put everything else away. Focus is the key to successfully getting it all done!

    7. Repeat with new tasks. Any time a new task ends up on your desk or in your inbox, figure out where in the Eisenhower Matrix it belongs and act accordingly. You can seriously use this matrix for everything!

    BONUS TIP: Plan your day using time blocking to be even more productive. When paired with the Eisenhower Matrix, time blocking is seriously the most effective productivity tip for planning your entire life. I use it every day! Make sure to check out this blog post where I’m sharing some examples directly from my calendar for how I time block my weeks.

     

    Why the Eisenhower Matrix Works

    The best way to reach your goals is to ensure you’re focusing your time on the tasks that are truly going to move you forward and have an impact.

    The Eisenhower Matrix works so well because it forces you to identify which tasks you should be focusing on, and which are a waste of time.

    I have always found myself procrastinating by spending too much time on the tasks that are either urgent but not important or even those that aren’t urgent or important. Using this method has really forced me to get honest with myself and move those tasks to the bottom of the list in favor of the more high-impact tasks.

    Pretty often I find that the reason I’m not focusing on the important tasks is fear. I’m afraid of going for something big and failing. I’m afraid of putting something out, whether it be a new blog post or a digital product, and being judged.

    Using the Eisenhower Matrix has really forced me to take a hard look at those important tasks and take away every other excuse for finally doing them.

     

    Final Thoughts

    If you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, the Eisenhower Matrix is the perfect tool to help you take an honest look at your to-do list and focus on the most important tasks.

    And by using the Eisenhower Matrix on a regular basis, you’ll ensure that your most important and urgent tasks are getting done every single day.

    Sure, it will be hard at first. It’s not easy to admit you’ve been spending time on tasks that aren’t worth your attention! But once you get past the hard part, you’ll eliminate so much wasted time and energy and find that you’re getting more done in less time and achieving all of your goals!

  • How to Use The One Minute Rule to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done

    How to Use The One Minute Rule to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done

     

    I would consider myself an organized and productive person MOST of the time, but I can also procrastinate like nobody’s business from time to time. What is especially frustrating is when I procrastinate on tasks that are SUPER easy, and that I know are going to take me no time at all! Enter: the One Minute Rule.

     

    How to Use the One-Minute Rule to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done

     

    What is the One Minute Rule?

    I first heard about the One Minute Rule on one of my FAVORITE podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Rubin (if you’re looking for personal development podcasts, definitely check this one out).

    The rule is super simple. Any task that you can finish in one minute or less, you do right away. For example, putting your shoes away as soon as you get home, or making the bed first thing in the morning. Both take less than one minute, and later you’ll be super glad you did them!

    The One Minute Rule is an easy place to start when you’re looking for productivity and personal development tips, because it’s just SO simple to accomplish, and takes almost no time (one minute or less).

    If you really follow it, I can almost guarantee you’ll notice that your home is cleaner and less cluttered all the time because those dishes don’t have a chance to pile up!

     

    How I Use the One Minute Rule

    As someone who preaches batching tasks, it doesn’t seem like I would be a proponent of the One Minute Rule. But there are definitely situations where I find it to be super useful!

    I most often use the One Minute Rule when it comes to housekeeping. One big example of this is the dishes. If I use a coffee cup, it takes me almost as much time to open the dishwasher and put it in there as it does to put it in the sink, so I try to be diligent about doing that.

    I also really appreciate having a bed that is made every day (partly because it looks nicer, partly because, for some reason, it’s just a lot nicer to get into bed at night when the bed is made). Since I know it takes me less than a minute, I usually try to do that when I’m the last one out of bed in the morning.

    I also use the concept of the one minute rule to push myself to do things I might otherwise talk myself out of. For example, there are definitely times when I get home super late at night, and I’m exhausted and just want to fall into bed.

    On those nights, it would be super easy for me to talk myself into going to bed without washing off my makeup or taking out my contacts. But then I remember that it will literally take me one minute to do those things, and I’ll feel 1000% better in the morning if I do. When I think about it that way, it’s SO much easier to talk myself into doing them.

     

    Other Benefits of the One Minute Rule

    One thing that I love about the One Minute Rule is that it’s a great way to trick yourself into getting bigger tasks done as well.

    For example, let’s say I tell myself I’m just going to take one minute and clean a certain part of the apartment that is cluttered, such as the coffee table. Well once I get started, chances are I’m going to keep going until I’ve tackled all the clutter in our living area (we have an open floor plan so the kitchen, living room, and dining room are basically one big room).

    Another good example of this is email. I might tell myself that I have ONE email that I know needs to be responded to and I know it’s going to take me less than a minute. But once I’ve got my inbox open, it’s SO much easier to finish organizing my inbox and reply to the rest of the emails.

    Sometimes you just need that initial boost before you have the motivation you need to get a bigger task done.  

     

    Final Thoughts

    There you go, my friends, that’s the one minute rule! If you find yourself procrastinating on the quick, easy tasks (and then getting super frustrated with yourself), give the one minute rule a shot. I guarantee you’ll find that you get more done and have more time to relax later!

  • How to Use the 80/20 Rule (AKA the Pareto Principle) to Improve Your Finances

    When it comes to life hacks, the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) is one that is seriously overlooked but can have a serious impact on your life.

    So what is the 80/20 rule? Founded by economist Vilfredo Pareto, the rule says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your actions. Pareto was only using the rule for a few specific situations at the time, but it’s since been shown that it can apply to just about anything.

    And you might be surprised that the 80/20 rule can even help you to improve your personal finances, as we’ll explain in this article.

     

    How to Use the 80/20 Rule (AKA the Pareto Principle) to Improve Your Finances

     

    What is the 80/20 Rule?

    The 80/20 rule — formally known as the Pareto Principle — is a rule that states that 20% of your inputs lead to 80% of your outputs. 

    The principle dates back to the late 19th century with Pareto, an Italian economist. He noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden resulted in 80% of the pea pods. More importantly, he found the same pattern could apply to the country’s wealth distribution.

    In the years since Pareto discovered this principle, it’s been applied to many other areas of life, from business to law enforcement to healthcare.

    Here are a few examples of how the 80/20 rule can apply to your life:

    • Your to-do list: You might find that 20% of the tasks on your to-do list contribute to 80% of your productivity, while the other 80% of tasks contribute to just 20% of your productivity.
    • Your habits: The majority of our days are made up of habits, and you might find that just 20% of your habits are responsible for 80% of your results, whether those habits and results are good or bad.
    • Your relationships: Some of the relationships in your life are more important than others. I try to maximize the 20% of my relationships that bring me the most joy and are most important to me.
    • Your possessions: Chances are that a few of the possession in your home are the homes you use most often, while most of your possessions aren’t used on a daily basis.

     

    How to apply the 80/20 rule to your finances

    In addition to the other areas of your life where the 80/20 rule can apply, there are a few areas of your finances where it can plan an important role.

     

    YOUR BUDGET

    Many people apply the 80/20 rule to their budget as a way to allocate their spending. This budgeting method combines the Pareto Principle with the 50/30/20 budgeting method made famous by Elizabeth Warren.

    In the 50/30/20 budget, you spend 50% of your income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings. The 80/20 budget is a simpler version of it.

    Using the 80/20 budgeting method, 80% of your income goes toward monthly expenses and spending, while the other 20% goes toward savings and investments.

    Of course, the 80/20 budget rule won’t work for everyone. If you’re working toward a specific financial goal, like paying off debt or early retirement, you might put more than 20% of your income toward your goal. Meanwhile, someone with a low income or in a high-cost-of-living area may need to spend more than 80% of their income on monthly expenses and spending.

    If nothing else, this budgeting method is ideal for those who aren’t sure how much of their money they should be spending versus saving and want a bit of guidance.

     

    YOUR INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO

    Another area where the 80/20 rule can apply to your finances is your investment portfolio. In this case, many investors will find that roughly 20% of their investment holdings will lead to about 80% of their growth. 

    While these percentages won’t be exact, the general rule applies that a small number of your investments will result in the most growth. But because you can’t know ahead of time which those investments will be, it’s important to have a well-diversified portfolio.

    We can see evidence of this by looking at weighted index funds like total stock market funds or S&P 500 funds. A handful of large companies make up most of the portfolio, even though there are hundreds or thousands of companies in those funds.

     

    YOUR BUSINESS

    Another area of your finances where the 80/20 rule can apply is in your business. First, many businesses find that a small number of their products are responsible for the majority of their revenue. 

    Similarly, many businesses find that a small number of customers or clients are responsible for a majority of their business. I can attest to this one myself. A handful of my freelance clients are responsible for the majority of my income, while the rest of my clients bring in smaller (but still important) income each month.

    A final application of the 80/20 rule in business applies to where you spend your time. Spend some time paying attention to the tasks you’re working on throughout the day. You may find that a small number of tasks are directly responsible for the majority of your income, while the majority of your tasks don’t really result in any money.

     

    Final Thoughts

    It’s amazing how changing or maximizing a minority of the actions you take in a day can have such a serious impact on your results. 

    Now that you’ve seen some examples of the 80/20 rule at work, it’s easy to see how it can apply to your own life and not just to your personal finances. You may find examples in your relationships, career, personal development, home, and more.

    The key is identifying those actions that are responsible for the greatest results and finding ways to maximize or go all in on them.