Many women are excellent at multi-tasking. Yay us! Often though, we feel like we have to get everything done and if we don’t, we label our Selves as not being good enough or as failures. Instead of being so hard on our Selves, what we can learn to do instead is prioritise.
Learning the art of prioritisation is underrated and is a key skill in any career path, so learning to differentiate the priority of the tasks on your things-to-do list will allow you to win and feel good about it. It’s also a lifelong skill you can transfer into your personal life.
The Eisenhower Principle
The principle uses four quadrants or categories that can be used to identify priorities and manage your time.
The first quadrant is important and urgent. These tasks can be things that unexpectedly come up and need immediate resolution or attention, or things that you left too late by not tackling them in the second or third quadrant.
Ideally, you want to minimise what lands in your first quadrant because you didn’t handle it earlier so that you can optimise the time spent on tasks that come in unexpectedly that you may not have planned for.
The second quadrant is important but not urgent. This is where you should be operating most of the time. These are tasks that will enhance your professional or personal life, allowing you to achieve your goals and complete important tasks.
Anything that sits outside of these two categories are things that you should avoid prioritising. They will take you away from your focus and you’ll spread yourself too thin trying to do everything.
In the third quadrant sits things that are not important but urgent (because they’re blockers) and often these are more to do with other people. When situations like this arise, be the enabler for the other person to handle these by themselves. Alternatively, when you begin to recognise patterns, find a solution that works best for your time and effort. Try scheduling regular time slots with your teams or family members so you can manage all their queries in one go.
The fourth quadrant is not important and not urgent. Avoid these altogether. They are a form of procrastination and serve only to distract you from achieving your goals.
Here are five quick tips on learning to prioritise using The Eisenhower Principle.
1. List all of your tasks (anything that takes your time on any given day)
2. Ask yourself which quadrant the task sits in
3. Mark the tasks that are important and urgent (these can be your priority 1s)
4. Mark the tasks that are important but not urgent (these can be your priority 2s)
5. Mark the rest as priority 3s and delete and 4s altogether
Where to focus
Aim to spend more time on your priority 2s and then handle the priority 1s as they come in. Minimise time spent on your priority 3s.
Remember, this is a practice and will take some time for you to program the behaviour so it becomes effortless and second nature.