We began this series by looking at the four traits of a strategic leader:
To better assess our own level of strategic leadership, we’ll use the Eisenhower Matrix to evaluate how we spend (or invest) our time.
The Eisenhower Matrix is named for the former President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. In a 1954 speech, Eisenhower quoted “a former college president” as saying "I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important.” It has been popularized by Stephen Covey in his book, the Seven habits of Highly Effective People (Covey, 1989).
The Eisen however Matrix consists of four quadrants formed by the intersections of urgent/not urgent and important/not important:
The treadmill of the urgent refers to our propensity for focusing on quadrants one and three and neglecting quadrant two. This is problematic as, by definition, strategic work is rarely urgent as it is future focused. Most strategic work takes place in quadrant two.
The Eisenhower Matrix has two primary uses:
Knowing how we spend our time and understanding that we could do better lay the foundation for a future in which we adopt the mindset of a strategic leader, which is where we are headed next week.
You can leverage the power of the Eisenhower Matrix in two steps.
First, take five to ten minutes and create a list of all of the different things you have done in the past day (or five days if you have the time). After you are done, determine which quadrant each of the tasks falls into.
Second, look closely at quadrants 1 and 3. Many of us have a difficult time separating the urgent and important from those that are urgent but not important. Urgency has a powerful effect on us and we tend to assume that something is important because it is urgent.
How can we distinguish between quadrants 1 and 3? There will always be a subjective component to it, but here are some things that might indicate something you placed in quadrant 1 should actually be in quadrant 3:
What do you see? Quadrant 2 is where the most important strategic decisions and actions occur. Many tasks in Quadrant 1 are unavoidable, but do you have to be the one to do them? Finally, look at quadrant 3. By definition, investing time in quadrant 2 is more important than investing in quadrant 3. How much time did you spend in quadrant 3, and what might you have been able to do if you had invested that time in quadrant 2?
You may notice that I refer to spending time in quadrants 1 and 3 but investing time in quadrant 2. That’s because time spent in quadrant two pays dividends. We’ll look at that more closely later.
Please take a few minutes to reflect on how you spend your time, especially in regard to quadrants 1 and 3.
Do good and be well,