How to Figure Out What is Important to You

Hello all, and welcome to my first blog post in many, many months. I’m happy to say that, after a bit of looking under the hood and figure things out, we are finally able to post articles again so that we can deliver more value and bring you important information to help you achieve more and become a healthier, happier human being

Speaking of Things That Are Important…

Some times we struggle to do figure out what are the things that are most important to our goal, process, outcome or whatever it is we’re trying to achieve. The reasoning behind this can be much deeper than we think. However, on a basic level, sometimes it’s just not fully understanding what we should focus on and what we should not focus on.

The Eisenhower Matrix

To help you better understand what you should be focusing your time on, I want to introduce you to the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a principle developed by the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. As Eisenhower was having trouble making critical decisions and deciding where and what to spend is time on, he decided to sit down and come up with a simple plan to help guide is decision making.

What came out of the plan, the Eisenhower Matrix, has helped millions of people prioritize their tasks so that they are getting their most productive work done, helping move them towards their audacious goals, while not spending unnecessary time on other tasks that may SEEM important, but likely aren’t moving in any particular direction.

The 4 Quadrants

At the core of the Eisenhower Matrix are the 4 quadrants. First, let’s look at the quadrants as they are presented in the Matrix, then we will break them down into a more digestible view to help us be able to translate this principle into our own lives.

A quick side note: it’s important to understand that what is important for one person may or may not be important for another. What is important for me is not going to be important for you. That’s okay. Everybody’s “important list” is going to be different, so be self aware of that as we go through these quadrants.

Quadrant #1 – Urgent, Important (Top Left)

Obviously, these tasks are things that need to get done. Since they are urgent and important, deciding not to do them may have a big impact on you, on others, or on the organization. the problem is, many of us think that MOST things fit into this category, when, in fact, they likely fit into another quadrant, which we’ll see in a second. 

Some examples of Quadrant #1 tasks may include writing articles, cooking dinner, scheduling a meeting, or answering email.

Quadrant #2 – Not Urgent, Important (Top Right)

Sadly, this quadrant is where most people spend the least amount of time. That is sad because this area is where we can have the biggest impact on our work. Q2 tasks are things that need to be scheduled in and typically need an amount of time to complete or pursue. Like I said, this are is where true progress is made.

Some examples of Q2 tasks may include exercise, project management, business planning, and meal prepping.

Quadrant #3 – Urgent, Not Important (Bottom Left)

This is another area where we spend a lot of unnecessary time. There are plenty of things in this world that are urgent (or seem urgent), but are not important. These can be thought of as “check the box” tasks. They make us feel good because they are easy to complete, yet aren’t of the highest priority for moving towards our goal.

Some examples of Q3 tasks may include email (yes, this can fit in Q1 and Q3), buying supplies, fielding calls, and replying to comments on social media.

Quadrant #4 – Not Urgent, Not Important (Bottom Right)

Hello wasteland. This area takes up a significant amount of time for many of us, and yet has little to no value in our lives. This quadrant could really be considered the “feel good” quadrant. That’s because the tasks that we’re doing here make us feel good, mostly because they don’t require any brain power to accomplish.

Some examples of Q4 tasks may include sorting through junk mail, watching TV, checking social media, or reading People magazine.

Bringing Clarity to the 4 Quadrants

Now that we see what the 4 quadrants are and basically what type of tasks fit into each, let’s break them down so that we can understand what to do with these tasks once we’ve decided where the tasks might fit.

This is an important step that many people miss. Understanding where a task fits is different than actually implementing an action plan to do something with them. In order to get the most out of your life and productivity, you need to be able to execute on your highest level tasks. And, in order to do that, you need to know which tasks are productivity suckers and which tasks are productivity enhancers.

Do, Decide, Delegate, Delete

To help us bring clarity to the quadrants, we’re going to put a word to each quadrant that will tell us what to do with those tasks. Each word is pretty self explanatory. However, I offer some basic explanation to help you further decide if a certain task to be delegated or should be deleted.

Quadrant #1 – DO

If you remember from above, Q1 tasks are important and urgent. Since these are things that need to be done to help move us toward our goals, and they need to be soon, we need to go ahead and DO them. Now, maybe they don’t need to be done right this very second, but, likely, they should be done today, tomorrow, or this week. So DO these tasks and get them off your plate.

Quadrant #2 – DECIDE

I mentioned that Q2 is where the magic happens. That’s because, since these tasks are important, but not urgent, you can, and should, take time to do them. That is why you need to DECIDE when you should do them, meaning, put them in your schedule. Many of us have trouble doing the things that bring us the most joy and fulfillment because we don’t put them in our schedule. Instead, we spend unnecessary amounts of time putting out fires and dealing with other people’s issues. Put these things in your schedule and STICK TO IT!

Quadrant #3 – DELEGATE

This is a scary word for a lot of people. Delegating gets a bad rap because we believe that we are the best person for the job and no one else can do it better. And this may or may not be true. However, if you’re doing a job or task that IS NOT moving you towards your goal, it should be DELEGATED. Teach someone else how to do it the way you do, but be sure to be patient. Maybe they don’t do it as well as you NOW, but they could do it better than you IN THE FUTURE.

Quadrant #4 – DELETE

This is likely where I will push most people’s buttons. Many of us have the feeling that we need “down time” or “time to veg” after a long days work, or at lunch or between tasks. If “veg-out” time is something that you crave and look forward to, then we need to have a much more serious talk. If you’re doing things that are not important and are not urgent, they should be DELETED and never thought of again. Yes, that might mean never-ever looking at social media again.

Pulling it All Together

10387727 – confused 3d man in the middle of question marks

So now that you have a better understanding of where your tasks might lie, take some time to write all of your tasks down on a piece of paper. Yes, everything you do in a day, from writing emails, to exercise, to driving to work, to looking at Facebook. 

Allot a time per week that you spend on each tasks. For instance, maybe you spend 5 hours a week on Facebook (if you think this is crazy, the average person spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook). 

Then, once you’ve decided how long you do each task, take a moment to truly decide where each task fits in the matrix. Once you have each task labeled, it’s time to execute! Honestly, there are 2 steps to moving in the right direction to get you started. First, start by scheduling your DECIDE tasks. Doing this will set aside the time you need to do the work-work. Second, get rid of everything in the DELETE quadrant. If you do these 2 things, the other quadrants may start to work themselves out.

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