Advertising
Advertising

How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

Dwight Eisenhower lived one of the most productive lives you can imagine.

Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953 to 1961. During his time in office, he launched programs that directly led to the development of the Interstate Highway System in the United States, the launch of the internet (DARPA), the exploration of space (NASA), and the peaceful use of alternative energy sources (Atomic Energy Act).

Before becoming president, Eisenhower was a five-star general in the United States Army, served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and was responsible for planning and executing invasions of North Africa, France, and Germany.

At other points along the way, he served as President of Columbia University, became the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and somehow found time to pursue hobbies like golfing and oil painting.

Eisenhower had an incredible ability to sustain his productivity not just for weeks or months, but for decades. And for that reason, it is no surprise that his methods for time management, task management, and productivity have been studied by many people.

Advertising

His most famous productivity strategy is known as the Eisenhower Box and it’s a simple decision-making tool that you can use right now. Let’s talk about how to be more productive and how Eisenhower’s strategy works.

The Eisenhower Box: How to be more productive

Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately)
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later)
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else)
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate)

The great thing about this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“How should I spend my time each week?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”).

Here is an example of what my Eisenhower Box looks like for today:

Advertising

eisenhower-box

    Note: I created a spreadsheet template of the Eisenhower Box. You can download that spreadsheet template for your own use at the bottom of this article.

    The Difference between urgent and important

    Urgent tasks are things that you feel you need to react to: emails, phone calls, texts, news stories. Meanwhile, in the words of Brett McKay, “Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.”

    Separating these differences is simple enough to do once, but doing so continually can be tough. The reason I like Eisenhower’s method is that it provides a clear framework for making the decisions over and over again. And, like anything in life, consistency is the hard part.

    Here are some other observations I’ve made from using this method.

    Elimination before optimization

    A few years ago, I was reading about computer programming when I came across an interesting quote by Kevlin Henney: “There is no code faster than no code.”

    Advertising

    In other words, the fastest way to get something done—whether it is having a computer read a line of code or crossing a task off your to-do list—is to eliminate that task entirely. There is no faster way to do something than not doing it at all. That should not be seen as a reason to be lazy, but rather a suggestion to force yourself to make hard decisions and delete any task that does not lead you toward your mission, your values, and your goals.

    Too often, we use productivity, time management, and optimization as an excuse to avoid the really difficult question: “Do I actually need to be doing this?” It is much easier to remain busy and tell yourself that you just need to be a little more efficient or to “work a little later tonight” than to endure the pain of eliminating a task that you are comfortable with doing, but that isn’t the best use of your time.

    As Tim Ferriss says, “Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

    I find that the Eisenhower Box is particularly useful because it pushes me to question whether an action is really necessary, which means I’m more likely to move tasks to the “Delete” quadrant rather than mindlessly repeating them. And to be honest, if you simply eliminated all of the things you waste time on each day then you probably wouldn’t need any tips on how to be more productive at the things that matter.

    Does this help me accomplish my goal?

    One final note: it can be hard to eliminate time wasting activities if you aren’t sure what you are working toward. In my experience, there are two questions that can help clarify the entire process behind the Eisenhower method:

    Advertising

    1. What am I working toward?
    2. What are the core values that drive my life?

    These are questions that I have asked myself in my Annual Review and my Integrity Report. Answering these questions has helped me clarify the categories for certain tasks in my life. Deciding which tasks to do and which tasks to delete becomes much easier when you are clear about what is important to you.

    The Eisenhower Box isn’t a perfect strategy, but I have found it to be a useful decision-making tool for increasing my productivity and eliminating the behaviors that take up mental energy, waste time, and rarely move me toward my goals. I hope you’ll find it useful too.

    Free Download: I created a spreadsheet template of the Eisenhower Box that you can download and use whenever you want to improve your productivity and eliminate time wasting activities. Click here to download the spreadsheet now.

    Sources
    1. Thanks to Brett McKay at The Art of Manliness for his post on the Eisenhower Box.
    2. The term “highest and best use” is a real estate concept for finding the most valuable use of a piece of property. My friend Mark Heckmann is a fan of using the phrase for personal time management and I like it too. Thanks Mark!
    3. For other useful productivity tips, check out this article summarizing Scott Hansleman’s work.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: U.S. Embassy New Delhi via flickr.com

    More by this author

    7 Reasons You Haven’t Found Your Passion Yet 7 Ways To Get Over Fear and Make Big Life Changes Fast Growth Is Overrated — Here’s Why Famous Biologist Louis Agassiz On The Usefulness Of Learning Through Observation How to Fall in Love With Boredom and Unlock Your Mental Toughness

    Trending in Productivity

    1 10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful 2 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It 3 How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 4 Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus 5 Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 24, 2020

    10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

    10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

    Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

    Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

    Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

    • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
    • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
    • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

    Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

    Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

    Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

    That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

    1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

    I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

    Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

    Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

    Advertising

    2. Be Grateful for What You Have

    Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

    Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

    “I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

    3. Smile

    Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

    Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

    Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

    Can you smile again?

    4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

    Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

    If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

    This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

    Advertising

    Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

    5. Exercise Daily

    One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

    Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

    ‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

    He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

    6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

    Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

    Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

    So how do you manage your time effectively?

    Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

    “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

    And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

    • Monday – Management
    • Tuesdays – Product
    • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
    • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
    • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
    • Saturdays – Taking off
    • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

    No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

    7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

    Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

    Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

    Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

    “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

    Be intentional about your daily goals!

    8. Seek Inspiration

    It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

    A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

    Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

    Advertising

    Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

    “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

    9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

    I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

    However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

    10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

    Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

    “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

    It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

    Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

    The Bottom Line

    Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

    More About Habits

    Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

    Advertising

    Reference

    Read Next