When it comes to red-blooded American heroes, it doesn’t get more badass than Dwight D. Eisenhower.
First, he led the Allied forces in Europe to victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Then, he faced off with the Soviet Union as the first Supreme Commander of NATO. Then, he put the cherry on top by serving as the 34th President of the United States.
Clearly, Eisenhower wasn’t afraid to put a lot on his plate. And he devised a simple but effective process for juggling multiple priorities and making decisions like a damn boss.
Here’s an intro to the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
The Difference Between Urgent and Important
Before we dive in, it’s important to differentiate between urgent and important. Trust me. They’re not the same.
Urgent tasks must be done now. There’s a critical time element and the clock is ticking. When the German army counterattacked in what became the Battle of the Bulge, Eisenhower acted immediately despite considerable risk.
The situation was simply too urgent to wait for more information.
Important tasks must be done right. Did you know D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5? Eisenhower delayed the invasion of Europe due to weather before finally giving the green light on June 6.
With that important but not urgent task, failure was not an option but postponement was.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s how to use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix in your small business.
Priority 1: Tackle urgent, important tasks ASAP.
Small business ownership often feels like one fire drill after another. As each new task roll in, stop and ask yourself if it’s truly urgent. Many things do have an immediate time factor. Others (like responding to every ding of your email inbox) can wait until later.
Example: Online complaints can make or break a small business. These trolls, errr, dissatisfied customers need personal attention and they need it now.
Priority 2: Schedule time to focus on important, non-urgent tasks.
Even in a small business where you wear a lot of (or all of the) hats, there are some tasks that can wait. They’re still important. They just don’t need to happen yesterday. Block time on your calendar and head to a coffee shop or coworking space, so you can knock out these tasks free from distraction.
Example: Small business success requires constant improvement and ongoing education. Schedule a time once a week to invest in the education that is so critical to your professional growth.
Priority 3: Delegate urgent, unimportant tasks.
Every small business has shit that needs to get done but doesn’t need the knowledge and tender loving care of the small business owner. Do you really need to personally pack product into shipping boxes?
Just remember that if you’re going to delegate stuff, you need to use a free task management app like Asana to keep track of everything.
Example: A large percent of email and social media inquiries are FAQs like hours of operation or shipping costs. Delegate social media to someone you trust. Don’t worry. They can escalate the important issues.
Priority 4: Disregard unimportant, non-urgent tasks.
Eisenhower didn’t take breaks from fighting Nazis and Communists to check his Tinder. Sure, he was married and Tinder hadn’t been invented yet. But, still, he had some seriously important and urgent issues to address. And so do you.
Example: Getting coffee with salespeople. Mindlessly browsing Twitter. These habits are killing your productivity, so be like Ike and just say no.