“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” —President Eisenhower
Sources differ on this methodology’s origin. What is certain is the wisdom behind the sayings and that, despite immense responsibility, Dwight Eisenhower was highly productive.
Aside from being the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II, Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, the first Supreme Commander of NATO, the creator of NASA, and still had time for oil painting. He attributed the saying behind his organization to a “former college president.”
Urgent matters are transitory. Important ones are lasting. By contrasting the two, putting them into a matrix known as “The Eisenhower Matrix,” it is possible to identify what is worth doing now. And, crucially, what is not.
- Important and urgent. Do now.
- Important and not urgent. Do next.
- Not important but urgent. Do after the first two.
- Not important not urgent. Don’t do.
Today, urgency is constantly being applied. Notifications, calls, advertisements. A persistent bug in software that is annoying but doesn’t prohibit work. The sense of urgency is misleading. To use Eisenhower’s matrix effectively, one must understand one’s goal. Then be uncompromising in eliminating those things that do no help achieve it.
Free resources for the opportunities and risks that need to be addressed daily, weekly, and throughout our development. Does it contribute to our goal? If not, it’s not important. Is the time to act passing? If not, it’s not urgent. What’s left is what matters now.