Conquer Your To-Do List with The Prioritization Matrix

Who doesn’t love a good planning tool, amiright? 🤓

If you have a to-do list that never seems to actually get done, this Prioritization Matrix may be your match made in heaven. Also known as the Eisenhower matrix, this four-quadrant system has become a widely popular method of efficiently organizing and prioritizing tasks.

Crucial vs. Urgent Tasks

The prioritization matrix allows you to break down your list of tasks according to how crucial vs. how urgent they are. These terms may sound similar, but they actually direct your workflow into 2 very different directions.

If it’s crucial that a task be done and be done by you, that means it needs to get done no matter what. If a task is urgent, it may not be the most important thing on your list to you and your work, but is likely time-sensitive and needs to be completed accordingly. Crucial tasks are the things that move the needle for us and make a difference in our daily lives, while urgent tasks are the things we schedule (and re-schedule) to fit into a specified time period.

This isn’t to say crucial tasks cannot be urgent and urgent tasks cannot be crucial. Many tasks will cross over between the two. It is important, however, to recognize how time and pressure impact our workflow so we can leverage them to our advantage.

Start with your list of tasks. Read through the list, and determine the urgency of each task. Then, assess how crucial the task is to you and your goals. Place each task in a quadrant of the matrix according to how crucial/urgent it is.

Pro tip: add the due date of a task in parentheses beside it so you have an idea of when things need to happen!

The 4 Priority Quadrants

Quadrant 1: Your to-do list

The things that end up in the top left corner (Crucial & Urgent) are your to-do list for the day. Those are the things that need to be done as soon as possible, as they are crucial and likely have an accompanying deadline. These may be tasks that must be completed in order to achieve a long term goal. They might also be tasks that require a certain amount of attention and time, so plans must be made accordingly. Make them a priority and create an actionable plan for how you’ll accomplish them!

Quadrant 2: Put it on the schedule

The tasks in the top right corner (Crucial & Not Urgent) need to get done, but not right away. Since they have a bit of leeway in when they get accomplished, schedule these tasks into your calendar.

To set yourself up for success, schedule the tasks as soon as you’ve organized them into their quadrants! Don’t tell yourself you’ll do it later, or you run the risk of them getting add right to the bottom of that to-do list with no plan in sight — again. Put them in the schedule ASAP and conquer them for good!

Quadrant 3: Pass it on

Tasks in the bottom left corner are not necessarily crucial that you do them, but they do need to get done. These may be errands to run, household chores, or other daily tasks that can be handed off if needed. This is when you must learn to say ‘no’ to the things that unnecessarily taking away your time so you can focus on what matters.

It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, you must get comfortable with asking for help. We can’t do it all, and we don’t need to! Delegate the tasks in this quadrant so you can beat the overwhelm and focus on the work you really need to do.

Quadrant 4: Cross it out

The bottom right quadrant is the cross-out zone. Tasks in this corner are neither crucial nor urgent — so what are they doing on the to-do list? These may be things you can schedule in if you happen to find the spare time in your day, but they do not need to be made a priority.

Assess these tasks and why you’ve had them on your list. Are they things you want to do? Things someone else wants you to do? Decide if you need to keep them or toss them, and proceed accordingly.

PS— Respect the cross-out! If you remove something from your list of tasks, don’t ruminate on it or feel like you should be getting it done despite its importance (or non-importance). Don’t be afraid to move on from tasks that don’t align with your ‘why’ so you can keep working towards the life you want.


QOTD: What tool do you use to organize your tasks?

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comments +

  1. Leah says:

    Thanks Amy. Love reading ur musings and productive hacks!!!!!!

  2. […] start seeing how time itself is a fixed concept – but you can manipulate it to fit in your most pressing and important tasks before the day is over and you feel it was […]

    • Gary Monardo says:

      Love this! This is very similar to the the urgent/not urgent matrix in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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