Cracking The Eisenhower Matrix Code


President Dwight D. Eisenhower had his own system of getting things done. As a highly organized man, he devised a system of prioritizing his tasks that is simple enough to be executed with pencil and paper and effective enough to run the free world. It’s called the Eisenhower Matrix.

The system is a formal process that helps you determine what tasks on your to-do list are urgent and what tasks are important. It answers the age-old question “Is this worth doing?”

“What is important is seldom urgent

and what is urgent is seldom important.”

When your tasks are plugged into the matrix it’s easy to identify what you need to work on first and what can wait until later. Here is how it works:

Make a chart that looks like the example below, with four quadrants. Label each quadrant with the categories shown. Now decide which of your tasks go where.


Chart from


  1. Important and urgent. Tasks in this category are both urgent and time sensitive. They must be completed as soon as possible.
  2. Important and not urgent. These tasks are to be handled immediately after those in quadrant number one. They are less sensitive, but need to be completed after any crises have been solved.
  3. Not important but urgent. These tasks are things that are not life changing but need to be dealt with soon.
  4. Unimportant and not urgent. Tasks that need to get done, but with no time-crunch in place. These things can be scheduled for another time.

You can use apps to create the matrix for yourself. You can find out more effective decision making information at

I use this prioritizing method when I get overwhelmed with my to-do list and don’t know what to do first. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Linda Samuels on March 11, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    This is fascinating! I never heard of the Eisenhower Matrix. It reminds me of other task or time management tools I’ve seen. They must have been inspired by Eisenhower’s system.

    • Janet Schiesl on March 12, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Linda. Yes I believe Steven Covey used it in explaining the decision making process.

  2. Seana Turner on March 12, 2019 at 10:51 am

    I think everything is better in a matrix! It just gives us a way to aggregate complex disparities into a manageable format. How cool to have developed such a useful tool and have it named for you. #legacygoals

    • Janet Schiesl on March 12, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      Yes, it’s brilliant! We use it today in so many ways, but for someone (Eisenhower) to realize how to lay out the process in a matrix. Brilliant!

  3. Deb Lee on March 12, 2019 at 10:52 am

    I have heard of the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a great productivity strategy. I like that gives visual cues and easy to understand instructions about where one’s focus should be. This can be really helpful when things feel chaotic and you’re not sure where to start. It’s also simple and doesn’t have a lot of moving parts so it’s relatively easy to keep up with and integrate into your daily routine.

    • Janet Schiesl on March 12, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Simple and Brilliant! This matrix is a great guide when you have a lot going on and need some parameters to stay on track.

  4. Hazel Thornton on March 12, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Not only have I heard of it, and use it, and have included it in several of my blog posts (well, my versions of it, in contexts unrelated to time management), I’m impressed that you know it was originated by Eisenhower. Most people (if they’ve seen it before) think Steven Covey invented it because he popularized it in his book “First Things First”. The Not Urgent/Important quadrant is the one people so often overlook, and fail to schedule, It contains all the good life habits such as exercise, and projects (as opposed to tasks), and learning. They are not urgent at any given moment, so easily skipped, but they are so important!

    • Janet Schiesl on March 12, 2019 at 1:58 pm

      Hi Hazel. This matrix can be used in so many different ways. It’s interesting how many different ways you’ve written about it.

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