Prioritizing tool you didn’t know you needed

Preface: This is an interesting article that I receive in my inbox email. I strongly it is good for me and for others, hence I copy the email and re-published it here. The article was written by Alex Mehr, PhD.
How do you prioritize your days?
I’m willing to bet you don’t always get exactly what you wanted done every single day. Distractions happen—new tasks come up, plans change, and fires need to be put out.

But what if I told you there was a simple way to establish your priorities

in the face of any series of tasks?

This revolutionary idea is based on former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s quote: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
So, with any task you have to do, ask yourself: Is this urgent? And is this important?
Important tasks contribute to achieving your professional or personal goals. The urgent tasks are the ones that need to get done right away, and usually contribute to someone else’s goals.
Think of it like a matrix—you have four quadrants: important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither. Here’s how you’ll prioritize once everything is assigned to one of these quadrants:
1. Important and urgent
You’d think this is the type of task that you should be spending the most time on. Nope. After all, if everything you’re doing is urgent, you’re probably always late, or something about your system needs to be fixed.
These are things you’ve left until last minute, or tasks that popped up unpredictably. The former can be avoided by working proactively. For the latter, always allocate time in your schedule for unpredictable tasks. An open half hour gives you enough space to make an urgent call your boss assigns to you, or to solve most small problems.
2. Important but not urgent
This is where most of your time should be allocated. Stay on track by scheduling a lot of time for these tasks. They’re the least stressful because time constraints aren’t pressing, and they’re dedicated to moving you forward.
3. Not important but urgent
These are the necessary tasks that are responsible for keeping you from reaching your goals. They include things like meetings where you may not have much to contribute. Delegate where you can and reschedule to a more sensible time if possible.
Also, learn when to say “No.” These are usually the tasks that are dropped in your lap by others, who also feel that they’re unimportant. Do them only if you have ample time and energy.
4. Not important and not urgent
In other words: distractions. Avoid this kind of task at all costs. This includes all kinds of ‘dilly-dallying’ while on the clock, but also may include practices that have become commonplace in your work routine. Take the time to assess your own tasks and determine if any are simply wasteful.
But remember: downtime and relaxation do not fall into this category. It’s important to rest and recharge, as well as take time for recreation and socialization to balance your active professional life.

Alex Mehr, PhD