Prioritizing Urgent Important Matrix

“We live in a time pressured world where it is common to have multiple overlapping commitments that all require immediate attention now. Urgency is no long reserved for special occasions, they are an everyday occurrences. How can one manage the flood of responsibilities, do excellent work and maintain a positive frame of mind?” (Stephen Covey)

  • Prioritization is vital for IT and business needs: it tells us the relative importance of an incident, so you’ll know how quickly to respond to address it, and how long that effort might take. In ITSM, the most common prioritization model involves understanding impact and urgency. How IT responds, handles, and resolves any request or issue to the business and/or customers depends upon what both parties think about impact and urgency.
  • The Eisenhower Matrix or also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix is a list to help you prioritize your tasks and improve your productivity. It sorts out your tasks based on their urgency, importance and effect. It is a very important tool in today’ world, where everyone is in a hurry to track their commitments.

The Importance Urgency Matrix, or the Eisenhower’s Principle, is an effective method for organizing priorities. It is a two-dimensional chart that is used to prioritize work activities as well as personal activities. It can be used when the team is having a conflict and unable to manage the work effectively. All activities can be evaluated in terms of importance and urgency. They are then placed in the appropriate quadrants of the matrix.

The importance urgency matrix consists of four quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1 is for important activities that require immediate attention.
  • Quadrant 2 is for activities that are important but not urgent.
  • Quadrant 3 is for activities that are not really important, but someone wants it now.
  • Quadrant 4 is for activities that are neither important nor urgent.

The 1-3-9 method addresses that reality by giving you a way to make sure you're at least working on the most important of your less important tasks. The priority matrix apps mentioned before—Eisenhower Matrix or Priority Matrix—work well for the 1-3-9 method, as does a Kanban app with a master list followed by subsequent lists for your 1, 3. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle or Eisenhower’s Matrix helps you think about your priorities, and determine which are important and which are, essentially, distractions. Dwight Eisenhower is quoted as saying, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”.

7 habits urgent important matrix

Quadrant 1 is for important and urgent matters. A problem may arise when unexpected activities arises, or when activities become urgent due to procrastination or poor planning. It is recommended to leave some time in your schedule to handle the unexpected activities. Be proactive and avoid procrastination and taking more time than needed doing the work. Some examples of activities that are found in this quadrant are: deadlines at work, projects at hand, medical emergencies and performing urgent repairs.

Quadrant 2 is the area that you should spend most of your time on. It is exceptionally important when it comes to personal development and growth. It also includes activities such as planning, prevention and leadership driven activities. These activities are often under used, and finding ways to expand them is the main goal from using this matrix. Athletes, entrepreneurs and other people of great achievement find time for this quadrant.

Activities in Quadrant 3 are unimportant and are done with a sense of urgency. Most of these activities are draining and time consuming. Examples of activities that are found in this quadrant are: some emails, some meetings, some phone calls, frequent interruptions, unwanted conversations and doing something because you can’t say “no”. Push back, delegate, or at least don’t get caught up with these activities.

Quadrant 4 is the area that most of us get caught up in. It includes those activities that are often used for taking a break from important and urgent activities. For example, watching your favorite TV show or playing your favorite video game can be a relief from important work. The key here is to limit how much time you spend in this quadrant. Otherwise, you will lose control of your future and may decrease your chances for success.

There are many tools that can help you to manage your activities in terms of urgent, important, both or neither. The simplest way is to use this template.

How to Use the Importance Urgency Matrix

The following steps describe how to organize your activities using the importance urgency matrix:

  • Begin by your personal or job-related activity list.
  • Draw the importance-urgency matrix on a paper (or on a flip chart if you are working with a team).
  • Sort all the activities in the appropriate quadrant.
  • Manage what’s on the first two quadrants, and pushback or ignore what’s on the last two quadrants.

Example – Work-Related Activities

Take your list of job-related activities then sort them in the appropriate quadrant of the importance urgency matrix. The following is an example:

Example – Personal Activities

Take your personal to-do list then sort it into the appropriate quadrants. The following is an example of a personal importance urgency matrix:

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At the start of a new day, I often set high expectations for what I want to accomplish. Like dust the house, write a blog post, and order birthday presents. But all too often, dinnertime rolls around and I feel like I got nothing done.

I am excited to share a better way to prioritize desirable activities alongside interruptions. You know, the constant phone calls, kids tugging on your pants, and sudden toddler meltdowns.

The trick is to use a prioritization framework called the Urgency Importance Matrix. Once you understand the basics of how this time management matrix works, you can quickly classify and sort incoming tasks.

Today I want to show you how to use the Urgent and Important Matrix in the context of motherhood. This tool is very flexible for stay at home moms and working mothers. Stick with me and in just five minutes, you can put this technique to work.

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Background of the Urgency Importance Matrix

Credited to President Eisenhower and businessman Steven Covey, the Urgent and Important Matrix identifies essential activities and eliminates nonessential ones. This tool is sometimes called the Eisenhower box or Covey time management matrix. The result of using this priority matrix is that you will spend your time more efficiently.

Simply put, the Urgent Important Matrix is a two by two grid that forms from two characteristics: Urgency and Importance. Going across the bottom of the matrix, you ask yourself if the task at hand is urgent and needed now. Then going up, you ask yourself if the task is important to your overall goals.

Based on the results of the two questions, you bucket the task in one of four quadrants of the matrix. This categorization helps you decide when and how to act upon the task.

Go ahead and grab a piece of paper, and fold it in half each way to create four quadrants. Then follow along with this guide to rethink how much time you devote to desired tasks versus actual tasks.

Goals – Important but not Urgent

This is your ideal to-do list, activities you want to do because they bring value to you and your family. Things like family bonding time or teaching your kids about the bible. Or perhaps exercising, reading, or other personal hobbies.

But all too often, life gets in the way and your goals as a mom sit on the backburner. We justify ignoring these activities because the world will not end if they do not get done. But ignoring your goals actually hurts your family’s quality of life in the long run.

I recommend you start with this category so that you feel motivated to address the other tasks. In the upper left corner of your paper, list five desired values or goals for yourself and your family.

Next we will consider how to overcome frequent interruptions and time wasters to free up time for pursuing these goals. Then you can make a point of scheduling a few goal-boosting activities into your week.

Distractions – Neither Urgent nor Important

Let’s start with potentially the easiest tasks to reduce first. Distracting activities are not meaningful or required yet we tend to waste time on them without realizing. For me this looks like scrolling through social media or the news.

Matrix

Why do I give in to distractions? Because I am either too tired or too disorganized to tackle the real tasks I should be doing. So the previous step of setting up my goals should help.

In the bottom left quadrant, make a list of personal distractions and determine which ones are ok in moderation. Eliminate the others by deleting apps from your phone or removing the temptations from your home.

It will be challenging at first to not turn to old habits of distractions. But over time you will come to appreciate the extra time that their absence will free up.

Interruptions – Urgent but not Important

Important Urgent Matrix Tool

As a mom, you will be interrupted by your kids all day long. From doling out snacks to fixing broken toys, these small interruptions add up to quickly drain your time.

It is best to recognize these tasks as interruptions and try to get a better handle on them. If the interruption occurs often, like snack time, then make a point to schedule it in your day. Or if the interruption is something you can get help with, ask for help.

Some examples of delegating interruptions including using a service like grocery pickup. Or having an older child help care for a younger one so you do not have to.

Eventually you will want to block your time into productive chunks. So the more you can minimize or schedule interruptions, the better.

7 Habits Urgent Important Matrix

Crises – Urgent and Important

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These are responsibilities that you need to take care of immediately to keep your household running. They are important for the family’s well-being and urgent in timing.

For example, when I need to do laundry today because my husband has nothing to wear to work tomorrow. Or when the only toilet in our house breaks, I need to call a plumber ASAP (aka father-in-law).

Crisis tasks come from unexpected natural disasters or procrastination fails. When these tasks arise, you will likely do these first in your day. Since you cannot avoid most of these incidents, you should address them by leaving unplanned time in your schedule.

Parting Thoughts

Not all tasks are equal. The key is to eliminate, delay, or outsource unnecessary tasks so that you have uninterrupted time for your goals. Pursuing these values and goals will positively impact our families and communities.

Action Priority Matrix

Tip: When first learning the Urgency Importance Matrix, you may want to write down all your tasks in each category. But once you get the hang of it, you can classify new tasks in your mind.

Let me know how the urgency matrix works for you by leaving a comment below. Do you bucket your tasks differently than my examples?

Prioritizing Urgent Important Matrix Definition

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