Prioritization, how you could move from urgent to important by Max Eskell

Time is getting more and more precious each day.  Deciding where to focus your most valuable resource is getting harder and harder.  One solution is to get more efficient.  If you improve the speed at which you work, you can get more done.  While this works great in the short-term, there is a risk that you cut corners or that you focus on the work with the nearest deadline (most urgent) rather than the work where you can add the most value (most important).

A lot of books have been written on prioritisation and productivity (I have reviewed several, see The Effective Executive or Never check email in the morning).  There are also some fantastic blogs and podcasts available (my favourite being the Four Hour Work Week).  While there is plenty of advice out there, a lot of it is contradictory and overly complicated (I am a huge fan of KISS).

As an (amateur) student of military history, I find what General Eisenhower managed to achieve in WW2 as amazing.  His simple importance/urgency decision matrix was central to his ability to manage the conflicting priorities of running a multi-national military campaign across the whole of Europe.  Of the many versions available online, I have found Covey’s interpretation of the Eisenhower grid (below), the most helpful (I like it so much I keep a copy of it on my laptop desktop).



After much trial and error, I now have a simple process for maximising the use of this tool.

  1. At the end of each day, I draft an email where I list out everything I have to do in two lists – one listing tomorrow’s outcomes, and another listing the outcomes needed after tomorrow
  2. I then open the copy of Covey’s matrix that I keep on my desktop and then re-order both lists in descending order of importance and then urgency
  3. I then send this email to myself, and others (if needed)
  4. I then use the email to plan my day.
  5. That evening I then have a record of what I have done and then I go through the process all over again


While this adds a little time to the end of the day.  The time you save by focusing on what is important far outweighs the additional five or ten minutes it takes.

I hope you found this helpful.  Please let me know if you have any similar or better strategies!