This article was based on a Pauwels Consulting Academy session on time management, provided by Luc Keppens from T&C Training & Consultancy. 

Setting priorities is a key element of good time management. If you do not set (good) priorities then you do not know which tasks you have to concentrate on (first). Consequence? Procrastination, low efficiency, poor results and frustrations everywhere.

Do you not know which tasks to prioritize and in what order? General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces during World War II and 34th President of the United States had a simple solution:

The Eisenhower quadrant

Eisenhower had a quadrant with 4 concepts:

  • Urgent tasks: tasks that had to be carried out immediately – otherwise his troops would die;
  • Non-urgent tasks: tasks that could wait for a short while – lives would not immediately be lost;
  • Important tasks: tasks that were important to Eisenhower’s personal goals;
  • Non-important tasks: tasks that were less important to Eisenhower’s personal goals.

Eisenhower reasoned as follows:

  • Urgent and important tasks had to be carried out immediately. Delaying these tasks would have far-reaching consequences: troops would die. Personally, we would like to add the following advice: preferably carry out urgent and important tasks at the start of the day. This way, you will avoid unpleasant surprises and you will be able to fully concentrate on other tasks later that day.
  • Non-urgent, important tasks may only be performed when all urgent and important tasks have been carried out. Without realizing it, we all spend a lot of time on non-urgent tasks. Responding to an email can be done Friday evening at 19h, for example, but there’s little chance the recipient will actually read the email before Monday morning 9am. So you could also send the email on Sunday evening or even on Monday morning. Be punctual and ambitious but don’t get carried away!
  • Non-important urgent tasks can best be delegated. After all, there might be people who can perform these tasks better. This way, you can concentrate on tasks that are important to you.
  • You can simply eliminate non-urgent tasks that are not important. Unfortunately, we all waste a lot of time on these kinds of tasks. Think about it, do you really have to go to the supermarket every day or can you also go shopping once or twice a week?

Setting priorities is the basis of good time management

Setting priorities is indeed 1 of the key elements of good time management, providing you with focus and peace, and, as a consequence, more efficiency, better results and less stress.

Eisenhower’s quadrant was as simple as it was ingenious. Try it out. We are curious about your experiences.

Are you interested or do you have any questions?

Do you have questions, tips or suggestions about time management or would you like to attend a Pauwels Consulting Academy session on time management?

Céline, our Learning & Development Coordinator, will be happy to help you. You can also reach Céline personally via +32 9 276 31 43 or celine.vanpuymbrouck@pauwelsconsulting.com.

Did you find this article interesting? Do not hesitate to share it with your network. The more efficiently we can work together, the better!

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