Does it seem like week after week you find yourself making little progress on your goals because you are so mired in the minutiae? For example, you spend hours on end attending to emails only to have your inbox magically refill again overnight. So, you get to the end of your week feeling as though you’ve worked hard and not being able to point to any real progress you’ve made. Sound familiar?

This is one of the reasons I appreciate the Eisenhower Matrix. For those not familiar with this methodology, it has you break your tasks into one of four quadrants. Yes, the consultant’s favorite tool, the two-by-two matrix. The x-axis denotes importance and the y-axis, urgency. In this way, you are sorting each task based on the criteria of whether it is important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, or neither important nor urgent. 

This exercise of sorting your tasks can be very illuminating, especially if you are honest with yourself. Much of what consumes our “to do” list are not items that will see us making progress toward our goals. The issue, I find, is that many have a hard time truly discerning which quadrant each task should fall into. Where does it fall when it is important to someone else but not to us? Doesn’t everything I do have some importance to it? This is where having a partner who can help you assess each task as it relates to your goals can be helpful. 

The real power of this matrix, though, is when you align your time and energy based on this prioritization. In other words, if we block time on our calendar to attend to those items that are both urgent and important first. Next, we may layer in some of those important but not urgent items while still leaving some time to attend to those items that are urgent but not important. 

Most of us, if we look retrospectively at our week, find that we actually spend our time and energy in the opposite order –where the urgent but unimportant items seem to fill our days, with a few urgent and important tasks demanding our attention and, little to no time for those important but not urgent items that would see you moving the needle toward your goals.  

The “problem” with the important but not urgent items is that they require self-discipline to focus our attention on them. In a world where attending to the urgent is what is rewarded, it takes discipline to counterbalance this with a long-term view. This is why, for many, those important but not urgent items languish in the “someday I’ll have the time…” Yet, often, these are the very items that matter most toward your vision (those goals that are 3 or so years out). 

Can you imagine how to begin to build the practice of sorting your tasks based on importance and urgency, and prioritizing your time and energy on those items that are important might see you building momentum toward your goals? At the same time, it takes practice to build this discipline and clarity. I’d welcome your sharing how you’re experimenting with this practice, where you’re getting stuck, and what you’re learning along the way.