The main goal is to be in Quadrant 2 as much as possible by getting tasks in Quadrant 1 done as soon as they arise. You don’t want to be putting out fires, that’s why your goal is to keep Quadrant 1 empty, if possible.
The result of spending more time in Quadrant 2 is that you’re working on your vision that drives you, you’ll feel like you’re in control and you feel more balanced. It’s also when you’re actually being the most effective.
A few tips from me for putting together and managing your Eisenhower Matrix:
1. Take enough time to categorize your tasks
What I usually do is that I first write down new tasks next to the matrix and then go through them one by one to evaluate in which quadrant they should go. I ask myself: Is this task urgent? Is there some kind of deadline? If yes, it has to be on the left side of my matrix and if not, it has to be on the right side. Afterwards I simply ask myself: Is it important to get this done or not? That way you ensure that each task goes to the appropriate quadrant. If you have your tasks in the wrong quadrants, your matrix just starts getting unorganized and cluttered and the whole system won’t be very effective.
2. Keep your matrix updated
I’ve been using the EM for quite a while now, but in the beginning I only looked at it very rarely. Sometimes I only updated it weeks later, which made the whole things obsolete, because most of the tasks on the list were already completed or eliminated and there were no current to-dos on it. That’s why I got into the habit of updating it regularly and putting new to-dos on the list right away. Right now I keep my Eisenhower Matrix updated daily, because it helps me to organize myself and not lose track of any of my tasks.
3. Sort by project
Make sure that you’re matrix doesn’t get cluttered and confusing by keeping multiple separate matrixes or adding subcategories to each quadrant. This will be really helpful if you use the matrix for different projects, or even have private tasks on there too. My quadrants were looking stuffed sometimes, which discouraged me, because it felt like I had so much to do. I simply put in a few headlines, separating tasks of different projects and it has helped me tremendously to keep a better overview.
4. Use a flexible and refreshable tool
Even though I’m a big fan of paper and pen, especially for planning purposes, the Eisenhower Matrix isn’t something you want to do on paper. You should use a tool where you can easily add, delete or move around tasks, without having to draw up a new matrix. I personally use Evernote, which is a very useful note-taking tool. It makes sense for me, because I work on my laptop every day and also regularly use Evernote for other things. That makes it easy for me to have my matrix open and update it. Pick a tool that is handy for you to use, preferably something that you use anyway. I would avoid getting an entirely new tool just for the purpose of creating your Eisenhower Matrix.
Some other digital tools that might work for you are other note-taking apps like Notion, an Excel spreadsheet, a Google Doc, a Miro or Mural Board or if you prefer offline tools you could use a whiteboard, chalkboard or something similar.
Now that you know what the Eisenhower Matrix is and how I use it, here is a short summary of the most important principles you should follow.