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Using a Priority Matrix

We have more tasks to do than time, that is something that will happen very often if not all the time. This is why prioritizing tasks is one of the most important parts of building a plan for the day or action plan for a project, by far my favorite method is using the “Eisenhower Matrix” that is attributed based to a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower

I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

The matrix once you start using it becomes a very easy point of start, the objective is to classify the tasks in a matrix-like structure as follows:

The “Now” category

Tasks that are Import and Urgent at the same time, which by its definition are tasks that need to be resolved immediately. Crisis, problems, deadlines.

I add my twist to this definition which is to evaluate if this could have in some form be resolved with better planning, if so I try next time to evaluate what triggers and alerts could I have in place to move the task to the Schedule category.

Some examples: A flat tire, the doorlock stops working, the computer does not turn on, a medical emergency. Some other might be prevented with better planning: a report asked at a last-minute, a call from your colleague for assistance on a task, an office supply that runs out.

The “Schedule” category

Tasks are important, but we don’t have urgent pressing matters to resolve right now. In this category that usually is to assign a date and time block of time to execute.

Usually urgent beast important, but in my opinion usually in the important lies the tasks that will have more impact in the long term.

Some tasks that are in the schedule category: Go to the supermarket, take the car for a regular check, review tasks of the week with your team, review office supply stock periodically, responding to complex emails.

The “Delegate” category

These are tasks that are urgent but not as important, these kinds of tasks unless is your direct responsibility to execute you could assign them to a teammate. For me, this category is critical to make sure everybody collaborates on a project.

Some examples: Ask a colleague to go for office supplies, Create a list of groceries and ask a family member to go to the supermarket on his/her way back home, ask a colleague to take on a specific project task.

The “Avoid” category

Tasks that are not important and not urgent, need to be reviewed and avoided if possible. We all have things we do that no necessarily collaborate to the end goal. In some texts, including Wikipedia you will find the description of time wasters and pleasant categories.

My twist on this is that recreational activities are things you need to do but perhaps not during your effective-productive hours, so the same as the schedule category assign them sometime later on the day and avoid them while you are working.

General tasks to avoid: Check social media, play games on the phone, Netflix. Some others that fall in this category are constantly checking email when not needed. Texting memes in the middle of important tasks.

Final thoughts

This kind of review is a habit and the more you practice it the better you will get overtime. My advice is to try to include it as part of your day, usually at the beginning of a day.

Try it for yourself and take 5 minutes before you start your day before opening your email and start responding to the everyday busy life and plan.

Planning won’t solve all the problems, but it will help over time. Every person has the same amount of time during the day, we all have 24 hours a day, the difference is how well we plan to spend that time.

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