I happened to catch a small snippet of CBS's Sunday Morning this weekend while lazing around. My initial dread about a political piece turned to pleasure as the story covered Dwight Eisenhower's way of prioritizing tasks and using time effectively and efficiently, which he called the Urgent/Important Principle, or "The Eisenhower Principle."
In order to prioritize a very difficult and stressful job, Eisenhower was said to have created and used this tool. It helped him to prioritize truly urgent issues at the same time as he worked towards important, longer-term goals. Despite what you might think of him as a president, there are some really useful things we can learn from this one small facet of his time in office.
The "Eisenhower Principle" is often used by professional development specialist to increase efficiency and productivity of employees in the business world. It can also be used in our personal lives as a time management tool.
Here is a simplified description of how to use it.
First, list all of the activities and projects that you have to do. Try to include everything, however unimportant it may seem to you. Truly empty your to-do list, and your brain, onto one sheet of paper.
Next, think about each item. Put it into one of the four categories shown below.
Only you can determine the importance of an item. In order to do so, you will need to think about the VALUE of accomplishing that particular task. Mitigating factors might include whether it will it alter your life, or the life of someone else, in a positive or negative manner? Is completing the task a means to accomplishing a larger goal that aligns with your values? Is it a cost-saving maneuver? A scheduling issue?
Some items on your list might be difficult to categorize. One important thing to consider, then, is the deadline. Items that have a very clear deadline, especially ones that have a negative consequence associated with not meeting it, should be placed in a high priority category (#1 or #2). An example might be- "register Abby for swim team before July 1," "pay mortgage."
Any item that causes an undue amount of anxiety might be ranked high on the urgent scale, but be careful. Sometimes, this is a false alarm. Once you work around the emotional response by looking at the item pragmatically, it may move down on your priority scale. This is one HUGE pitfall I see when I organize with someone. Some clients are emotional and anxious about getting some particular thing done. Once we break it down logically, we see that it is NOT as huge a priority as once seen. Larger, more important tasks can be conquered first. Items are much easier to tackle when we can eliminate emotion.
Once your tasks have all made their way onto your priority scale, you begin working on each item from the top, moving down.
However, your work is not done. You may have been able to effectively prioritize your tasks, but moving forward, there are a few more things to consider.
1. Reflect on your values. Take a look at your schedule from the last few weeks. Those items on your schedule reflect where you are putting your time. Do these items align with the things you value? Consider having items on your to-do list that align with your values.
2. Eliminate or designate busy work. Is there someone else in your home that could take ownership of, and learn from, a task on your list? Think of your children and spouse...sometimes we feel we are the ONLY ones who can cook/clean/do bills. Not true.
3. Build time into your schedule to reach your goals. If you are so busy that you don't have time to meet some of your personal goals, you are either not prioritizing your values, or are overscheduling yourself. Each day should hold some time for improving yourself, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
4. Don't make your goal each day to complete your entire to-do list. If your list is value-driven, you will be getting much more out of accomplishing any one thing than a simple check mark. Your life will be moving forward with direction, and there's no need to add the pressure of completion to your list.
You never know where you're going to learn something new. For me? It was drinking coffee in my jammies on a lazy Sunday morning.
May you be so easily inspired.
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