Easily Prioritize and Accomplish Tasks With Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States. Eisenhower is also the name of the time management method that good ol’ Dwight used to be productive on a daily basis. And if this method works well enough to, you know, run a country, then I figured it was worth a try.

Eisenhower the app aims to work according to the same principles as those of the former president by making the user divide tasks into four different categories: Do First, Schedule, Delegate and Don’t Do. Click “more” and I’ll show you how the system works.

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The Method

If you’re going to visualize the Eisenhower method, picture a square divided into four quadrants, labeled with: important, unimportant, urgent and not urgent. All to-do’s are supposed to be categorized as important or unimportant and urgent or not urgent and then written in the corresponding quadrants.

According to the Eisenhower Method, tasks can be categorized as either important/not important as well as urgent/not urgent.

According to the Eisenhower Method, tasks can be categorized as either important/not important as well as urgent/not urgent.

Tasks that fall into the following quadrants then necessitate the following actions:

Important/Urgent — Deal With Immediately
Important/Not Urgent — Schedule
Unimportant/Urgent — Delegate
Unimportant/Not Urgent — Drop

This process is designed to help you determine which tasks are priorities, as well as which ones aren’t. A quote attributed to Eisenhower the man is even said to describe this method: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

The App

The Eisenhower app seeks to recreate the four quadrants for the modern age. The interface includes a sleek background of paneled wood (a nod to previous generations, no doubt), with the four quadrants at the bottom of the screen, numbered and labeled, respectively, 1) Do First (important/urgent), 2) Schedule (important/not urgent), 3) Delegate (unimportant, urgent) and 4) Don’t Do (unimportant, not urgent).

In case you need an overview or a refresher at any point, you can tap the light bulb icon at the bottom left in order to recall the Getting Started screen. Here the developers have laid out a handy grid for you that recaps the concept behind the quadrants. Below that are a few short paragraphs on the topics of “Basic Time Management,” “Work-Life Balance” and “Going Further.”

The app includes a short guide to explain the concept of the Eisenhower matrix, as well as key time management principles.

The app includes a short guide to explain the concept of the Eisenhower matrix, as well as key time management principles.

At the bottom right is the settings wheel. From Settings you can link your Facebook or Twitter account, turn sounds on and off, recommend the app to others, and view Eisenhower’s signature.

The light bulb, settings wheel and quadrants at the bottom center remain static throughout app use, allowing for easy and quick switching back and forth between categories. You’ll also notice that each quadrant has been assigned a color: 1) Green, 2) Blue, 3) Orange, and 4) Red.

Quadrant 1 — Do First

Adding items to quadrants is as easy as tapping on one of the dotted lines and then typing in your text. Swiping your finger through an item will cross it out; swiping again will undo this.

The first quadrant is for items that are urgent and important. Tap the clock icon next to an item and a countdown timer appears. The app tells you to “do this and nothing else” for the next 30 minutes. Tap the timer to start the clock, which displays the number of minutes remaining and a ring of dashes representing 60 seconds. A ticking sound accompanies the timer. While for some the auditory cues may be too stress-inducing, I prefer it, since it’s a continuous reminder to stay on track. It should be noted, however, that you can also switch your phone to silent.

Quadrant 1 is for urgent and important tasks that must be now, and a countdown timer has been included to facilitate this.

Quadrant 1 is for urgent and important tasks that must be now, and a countdown timer has been included to facilitate this.

If you finish a task in less than 30 minutes, tap the checkmark symbol. Eisenhower will stop the timer and take you back to the list in quadrant 1, as well as cross off the item for you. If you don’t want the item to be checked off, just swipe it to remove the line through it. While the timer is running, you can also press the stop button (to the right of the checkmark) to return to your list; doing so won’t automatically strike out the item. And if you start your timer but need to restart it for any reason, you can press the back button (to the left of the checkmark).

Quadrant 2 — Schedule

The second quadrant is for items that are less urgent, but are important. These you’ll want to schedule to complete at a future date and time, and Eisenhower has handily provided a way to immediately do just that. Tap the calendar icon next to any item to add it to your calendar, making it an event.

Quadrant 2 is for items that are important but not urgent; you can schedule these to-do's on your calendar from the app.

Quadrant 2 is for items that are important but not urgent; you can schedule these to-do’s on your calendar from the app.

You can select the start and end time, request alerts either before or at the time of the event, add notes for yourself, and more. These events now appear in both Eisenhower and your calendar.

Quadrant 3 — Delegate

The third quadrant is for items that are urgent, but less important, and are tasks you’d either like to put someone else in charge of or get feedback on. Tap the arrow icon next to the item to open up an email draft. Here you can fill in the “To” field and add your own text as necessary. Already included in the draft is the subject “Please take over” with the task in the body of the email.

Quadrant 3 is for items that are important but not urgent; delegate these tasks to others via email from within the app.

Quadrant 3 is for items that are important but not urgent; delegate these tasks to others via email from within the app.

Quadrant 4 — Don’t Do

The fourth quadrant is for items that are neither urgent nor important. There are a couple different ways a person could use the space here. Maybe you want to list distractions that will prevent you from being productive, for example, YouTube, junk food, TV. Or maybe you want to take the title “Don’t Do” a little less seriously and use the space to list activities you’d like to devote attention to whenever you get some free time.

Quadrant 4 is for items that are neither important nor urgent; list here things that you shouldn't be spending your time on.

Quadrant 4 is for items that are neither important nor urgent; list here things that you shouldn’t be spending your time on.

Final Thoughts

One of the greatest things about the Eisenhower is that it forces you to put tasks into just one of the four quadrants, and by doing so you’re simultaneously prioritizing your to-do’s and determining what’s important/not important and urgent/not urgent. To me, this is a lot easier than creating one long, all-inclusive list of absolutely everything I need (or think I need) to accomplish and then spending a lot of time reordering them according to their priority level.

Eisenhower has also limited the number of items to eight per quadrant. This is designed to keep lists manageable and set you up for success, rather than feelings of failure and being overwhelmed. I wish I had some flexibility with the timer — the ability to also set it for 15 minutes or 60 minutes would be handy — but then maybe that negates the point the app is trying to make, which is that you shouldn’t get bogged down with any one task for longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Overall, the app is simple to use and nicely color-coordinated, and the in-app abilities to push events to your calendar or email tasks to others makes zipping through to-do’s a snap. I plan to continue using this app long after I file this review.


Summary

A time management method that helps you prioritize and accomplish tasks according to their levels of urgency and importance.

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