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Why Southeast Asians Love Eisenhower’s Matrix More Than Keanu’s

Because the Eisenhower Matrix organizes tasks by urgency

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 26 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

People love making lists. We like putting things in order, and there is just something satisfying about putting that checkmark beside your newly accomplished task.

Simon Kearney, co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based content agency Click2View, is a fan of to-do lists. “I need to get things out of my head. I’m not that good at following up on them,” he says. He generally categorizes tasks by urgency and his ability to do them then and there or schedule them for later.

But the problem with working with a to-do list is that it doesn’t tell you which tasks demand your immediate attention and which ones can take a backseat. Often we work on tasks we think are important, but are actually not vital to our progress. And sometimes we are tempted to work on the easy tasks first just for the sake of crossing things off.

Kearney uses his email inbox as a to-do list of sorts, and categorizes tasks according to his four D’s: Deal, diary, delegate, or delete.

“My best day ever is leaving work with an empty inbox,” he says.

Stanley Chia, co-founder of Singaporean edtech start-up Cialfo, recommends in this Inc. Southeast Asia article having a general rule to follow about when and how to approach tasks. For example, one may want to accomplish urgent and “quick-to-resolve” tasks, but already start working on urgent but “takes-time-to-resolve” tasks.

To better map out this important vs. urgent conflict, Southeast Asian entrepreneurs can try the Eisenhower Matrix—named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the U.S., who was known to have used a similar technique in his decision-making.

The way it works is that it divides the tasks that are important and those that are urgent, with a corresponding course of action depending on the category the task falls under, as in the matrix below:

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important Do Plan
Not Important Delegate Drop

Tasks that fall under the Important-Urgent quadrant are those that need to be dealt with during the day and deserve your full attention, such as dealing with a company crisis or meeting the client’s deadline.

Activities—such as reaching out to potential clients or exercising—may fall in the Important-Not Urgent category and should thus be scheduled to avoid putting them off.

For work that needs to be delegated (Not Important-Urgent), Chia asks questions, such as: Will the task involve confidential information? How much time do I need to pass down information or train someone to do it? Will it be a repeatable task, thus inculcating knowledge that can be more quickly used next time?

Now for things that can be considered Not Important-Not Urgent, like going through junk mail or catching up on Netflix, you can just save them for another time.