Eisenhower served two terms as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Eisenhower had an incredible ability to sustain his productivity consistently and for very long times. For that reason, it is no surprise that his methods for task management, time management and productivity have been studied by many people over the years.
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. Here’s how it works:
Start with categorising all your tasks in 4 quadrants:
A = Tasks that are Important and Urgent
B = Tasks that are Important but Not-Urgent
C = Tasks that are Not-Important but Urgent
D = Tasks that are Not-Important and Not-Urgent
Once you have categorised all your tasks, you can start organising them by using 4D method below:
A = Do it: Tasks that can be done in one sitting, without interruptions. These are the tasks that need to be done now/today.
B = Decide It: Schedule these tasks to be done soon. If you are scheduling tasks to be done other than the immediate future then consider adding those tasks in to Defer quadrant because these tasks are probably not urgent or important.
C = Delegate It: Can someone else do this task for you. That someone doesn’t have to be who works below you in your team, it can be someone in different department, different team etc. You should really ask yourself if this tasks had to be done by you or it can be delegated. If tasks can be done by someone else with three quarter of the quality you should delegate it and then look over it to make it a hundred percent. If a task cannot be delegated but you have to complete it yourself on regular basis then consider training someone for that task.
D = Defer it: Can you defer or perhaps delete this task as it does not serve any purpose to the main goal/objective. If this is non-urgent and non-important task don’t waste your energy on it.
Like this Eisenhower box? Download a high-res printable pdf by clicking on the image
“So phrased differently: Effectiveness is picking a direction and efficiency is running really fast in that direction,” Hanselman says.
“Hope is not a plan,” Hanselman says. “Hope is nothing but waiting and letting life happen to you.
With effectiveness in mind, Hanselman stresses the importance of understanding David Allen’s threefold nature of work, which is:
- Pre-Defined Work – Work you’ve set up ahead of time
- Work As It Appears – Work that interrupts you
- Defining Work – You sit down and think about what work you need to be doing
More time needs to be spent on the last bullet point, Hanselman says.
“How often have you actually put on your calendar one-hour of time to say, ‘I’m going to sit down and think about what work I need to be doing.
Resolve Inbox Issues:
Changing how emails are displayed in your inbox, Hanselman says, will “fundamentally change how you think about email.” The change: set up a folder for emails that you’re CC’d on and a folder for emails that come directly to you. The emails automatically filtered to the “CC” folder, Hanselman says, are not important.
“Next time your boss sends you a to-do and Cc’s you on it, don’t do it,” he says. “Then when he says, ‘Why didn’t you do it?’ (Say,) ‘Oh well, you Cc’d me, I thought you were just informing me.’ He’ll never do that again.”
In his community management role at Microsoft, Hanselman uses one more folder in his inbox. “Notice how the inbox ‘External’—my community, people who don’t work for my company, they’re important to me—I’ve answered all of their emails,” he says.
If you have tried this Hanselman trick, do let us know how did it work for you.
Tips when working with the Eisenhower box:
1. Always question if things in your list are worth doing
2. If this list going to help me reach my goals?
3. Keep one list of your personal and work tasks so you can balance both.