I really liked the time management strategy I came across on James Clear’s blog the other day, called Eisenhower Box, aka the Eisenhower Method. With this method, we evaluate tasks using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent, which we then place in according quadrants in an Eisenhower Matrix.
- Important/Urgent quadrants are done immediately and personally.
- Important/Not Urgent quadrants get an end date and are done personally.
- Unimportant/Urgent quadrants are delegated.
- Unimportant/Not Urgent quadrants are dropped completely.
The simplicity of the strategy is stunning and since the day I learned about it, I’ve been looking at things from a totally different perspective. It reminded me of another fantastic method of planning (or goal setting) Josette LeBlanc has developed and shared on her blog. Both strategies are simple and ‘user-friendly’. One can’t help wondering why not everybody on the planet follows the rules and succeeds in everything they do. This is why I think why:
If you’re not the procrastinating type, the one who always puts off impending tasks to a later time, the hardest part for you will be to decide which tasks should be done immediately and which can be given a deadline. Perfectionists I know are likely to do everything immediately – sometimes days or even weeks ahead of time – without much prioritizing. You have to try hard to ignore these types at your workplace because their approach will only drive you crazy. Once you are able to pretend they don’t exist, you’re fine. To be completely fair, though, there is an advantage to having people like this around you; as they have completed all their tasks, they can help you with yours. Also, they are like walking planners – they constantly keep reminding you of the upcoming deadlines.
However, there’s a more dangerous type of perfectionists – your superiors. If you’re your own boss, skip this paragraph. The danger lies in the fact that they want to get things done immediately, but they don’t always handle them personally – they simply delegate them. In such a case, your enlightened approach to planning and goal setting goes down the drain because it’s their ‘urgent’ tasks you have to do immediately and personally, no matter how unimportant they may appear to you at that moment. As a result, the goals you consider really important and urgent will turn into stressful nightmares because you are too busy to deal with them.
Number three is another hard nut to crack. It’s not easy to decide which tasks should be done personally and which can be easily delegated. It’s a common belief that good managers can delegate jobs effectively. I believe that a good teacher is good at delegating stuff too – outside and inside the classroom. Why should you prepare tens of word cards for a vocabulary game if your students can help you? Why should you do the board work if a student can do that? Of course, you need to delegate tasks in a meaningful way – not because you had a bad night and feel tired. You can’t fool your students anyway.
If number 3 is a challenge for you then number 4 is likely to give you a hard time too. Based on my experience, dropping unimportant stuff is not a piece of cake. The first question you have to ask yourself is: What is unimportant? Once you find the answer, you’re almost there. Must all your materials be laminated or will it suffice if your vocabulary cards are just quick scribbles on pieces of ordinary paper? Do you need to make an elaborate presentation to tell your students about the difference between the present simple and present continuous or is it ok if you have your notes written down and copy them on the board instead?
I think I’ve listed all the pitfalls of the Eisenhower Box. Can you think of more? What strategy do you use to prioritize?