As a part of my efforts to increase productivity, I need to prioritize my tasks. The question that I always try to answer about each thing that need to be done from my side is about importance of that thing.
The importance is always something that I use to define the priority. If it is more important than the priority will be larger.
Before 12 years, as a student for a master’s degree in the bookstore I found a book from Stephen R. Covey titled as First Things First, and amongst 15 other books I purchased that day in that bookstore was this one. There, for the first time I learn something more for prioritization and doing the first things through a framework in a form of 2×2 matrix. The matrix helps to find whether or not a task is urgent, important or some combination of them.
The matrix gives us four quadrants, which can be used in prioritization and deciding about tasks we will need to do, tasks that can be delegated and tasks we can delete. In addition to this decision, we can also decide what can be a part of our delegation process.
Here is the matrix with all four quadrants that I will explain below.
- Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent Tasks. Let’s think about it. These tasks are important for us, and in the same time urgent to be done as quick as possible. They should be our first priority before everything else on our to-do list. These types of tasks needs to be done today or tomorrow depending on time when you prepare yourself for your daily activities. For example, here can be tasks as already scheduled meetings with our customers, improvements that we need to implement, project that solve big problems, etc.
- Quadrant 2: Important But Not Urgent. This quadrant will have tasks that are important, but we can schedule them for some time in the future. We don’t need to jump directly to work on them today, but they will be something of our focus when we finish all first priority tasks (Quadrant 1). These tasks should be our second priority, because they are important for us, and if we don’t do them, we will have problems in the future. For example, planning a project can be part of this quadrant because we can always start planning tomorrow.
- Quadrant 3: Urgent But Not Important. Can we have something urgent, but not important? These tasks should be our third priority because even they are urgent, they are not important for us. We will not lose anything if we do them later. For example, answering email that is not so important, even it has an urgent label in a subject from a sender is not our first priority. It is first priority for our sender.
- Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important. Why something not urgent and not important will be on our list of tasks? We need to delete them.
As you can see, with the help of this matrix, you can simply prioritize your tasks on your to – do list. This will give you tasks marked as 1 – something you need to do immediately, tasks marked with 2 – something can be done in near future and tasks marked with 3 – something that needs to be done when we have free time or to be delegated. Tasks marked with 4 you will need to delete from your list.