Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the USA.

Important things are those that are critical to meeting our goals; urgent things are those that need to be addressed soon, though they often arise through other people’s goals (or our own procrastination).  One way of prioritising is to construct a 2×2 matrix to get:

  1. Things that are important and urgent.  Do these first.
  2. Things that are important but not urgent.  Do these next, to get the rest of the important business done.
  3. Things that are not important but are urgent.  These can be left until the important stuff is cleared out.
  4. Things that are neither important nor urgent.  Do these only if we have time – else ignore them.

It’s quite simple but it needs discipline as it’s easy to be distracted by others nagging us to address level 3 tasks because those are important to them.  There may be many tasks where there is shared importance but, when our time is short, we need to focus on what is important to us.  That may not always win friends so we also need to be conscious of having blinkers when deciding what is important.

It’s the principle behind many time management schemes or phone/PC ToDo lists so, if you have trouble getting things done, it may be worth exploring them.


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