What is it?

Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953 to 1961. It is said that he lived one of the most productive lives you can imagine. James Clear says in this article published by Entrepreneur that

Eisenhower had an incredible ability to sustain his productivity not just for weeks or months, but for decades.

We are not going to discuss his life here (I am sure it was super productive), but we are going to talk about a simple but effective tool he developed to organize activities in order to manage time: the Eisenhower Box.

The Box (see the picture) is actually a matrix that separates actions based on four possibilities:

  • Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  • Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  • Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  • Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

How to use it?

First: the box can be used for broad productivity plans (let’s say on a weekly or monthly basis) and for smaller scales (daily plans).

Now, you just need to place each activity in the right category. How to know it?

You need, to be honest with yourself, and start to do a prioritization process. Read this article about it to know how to do it better.

Urgent and important

These are the activities you must do right now. Immediately. Why? Because they really matter, they need to be done by you, and (moreover) they need to addressed just know. Easy, they are not only important but also urgent. So, delays are not acceptable here.

Important, but not urgent

These activities are important, yes. However, they can wait a bit. Meaning that you need to schedule them right now, but they do not need to be done at the moment.

Be careful: these things matter to you and should be scheduled. Do not procrastinate. Set a deadline and pay attention to them.

Urgent, but not important

These ones are things that need to be done, but not necessarily by you. Meaning, they do not need your specific attention. When defining these ones think:

Is there anyone else able to do this?

If so, who?

Neither urgent nor important

These are simply a waste of time. These activities are occupying a place in your mind and agenda, but they are not important. They are not even urgent. The kind of things you need to SAY NO. Read again this article to know how to say no to those things that are just a burden. These ones need to be deleted off your «to do list» and priorities, right now. 

As you may see, it is very simple and could be very useful to declutter your agenda, your mind, and your priorities.

This is the very first step to manufacture killer deadlines: to know what really matters, what needs to be done, and what must go to the bin. 

If you want to go deeper there’s an excellent tutorial here.

Please share your ideas and share this article to someone you think will find it useful (there is always someone).


Diego is an experienced learning advisor, a certified trainer and a design thinking consultant.

He is available for advisory where the focus is on driving transcendental learning and lasting change. Moreover, he is always eager to chat.