Teaching team members to correctly label tasks

Over the past few years, I've seen the name Eisenhower next to the word "matrix" more often than his first name "Dwight."

Before becoming the 34th President of the USA, Dwight Eisenhower was a five-star general in the army.

He was known to be a very productive man.

One of his secrets to achieving high productivity was discern the important from the non-important and the urgent from the non-urgent.

He famously said:

"What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important."

That's where the Eisenhower matrix comes into play.

It's a simple framework to assist someone in thinking about a task. After reflection, the task is assigned to one of four categories.

Each category has a clear direction:

  1. Important & urgent: address right away
  2. Important & not urgent: schedule it for later
  3. Not important & urgent: find the most qualified person for the task
  4. Not important & not urgent: do not address at all

Leaders have the responsibility to help put the correct label on tasks.

The Eisenhower matrix is a tool to do just that. It's easy to teach and to use together with a team member.

The goal is to avoid the pernicious feeling that everything is both important and urgent.