Apps, blogs and self-help books aside, arguably the simplest, most effective organizational tool I have ever come across is the Eisenhower Box. Perhaps you’ve already heard of it. Maybe even from me, as I’ve touched upon the subject in last month’s StetBlog about March’s Roundtable. But it’s worth delving into, as it really has helped resolve my perennial Spring Cleaning resolution, “I’ve GOT to get more organized!” Maybe it will help resolve yours. After all, better organized = more productive.
In a convenient nutshell – or box: The Eisenhower Box was (obviously) devised by the 34th U.S. President himself. And if anyone would have a supremely efficient organizational strategy, it would be a WWII 5-star General.
ATTENTION! Note the four quadrants in the accompanying diagram. Particularly the headings “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.” Those two words alone have cleared my brain’s obstacle course, so that when about to attack a particular task, I’m automatically asking myself, “Is this urgent?” Most of the time it turns out to be a covert procrastination trap. A sinister distraction from getting to things that are urgent. Like deadlines.
As an example of how I incorporate the Eisenhower Box in my day, I will run through the mundanities of last Sunday. (Spoiler alert: If you think the life of an IWOC President is all State Dinners and croquet matches in the Rose Garden, you will quickly be disabused of that notion.)
The four tasks at hand, NOT in the order of urgency: 1) A Wednesday assignment deadline, 2) IWOC emails, 3) cooking a brisket for two guests, 4) cleaning (for the guests). While everything on that list initially had me in panic mode, I put myself at ease by thinking “Urgent/Important” and “Not Urgent/Important.” Like disciplined soldiers, everything dutifully fell into place and in this order: Cleaning, Brisket, IWOC emails, Deadline. I deleted the “Non-Urgent/Non-Important”-- the trifles that always manage to lure me off course: Polishing a pewter votive, clipping coupons, treating cuticles, catching the Sunday morning news shows – and dozens of others.
Yesterday (Monday) had presented a whole new list of “to-dos,” demanding a reconnaissance thereof. What I decided to put off Sunday as “Not Urgent/Important,” now has moved to Urgent/Important: The Assignment Deadline. Also urgent: This Post, also due Wednesday. Of the two, paid work takes precedence. So I completed that yesterday, and today (Tuesday), I'm this close to finishing the Post. Wooo Woooo! Missions accomplished!
Nothing like the feeling of getting one’s to-dos...done. Are yours? Stop reading this and start tackling what’s “Urgent.” Forward...march!
- Laura Stigler
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