Since you guys liked the calendar PDF so much, I decided to share one of my other minimalist favorites, the Eisenhower chart or Eisenhower matrix. This minimalist version is super simple, and—fan of mathematics that I am—I reduced the »not« to a simple strike-out. Hehe… I like that much better.
This kind of effortless stuff is my thing. It’s a dumb little detail, yet it looks so nice. So, I hope you enjoy this freebie!
How to use the Eisenhower matrix
- Tasks are divided into 4 categories:
- urgent & important
- not urgent but important
- not important but urgent
- Tasks can migrate from one category to another, e.g. a not urgent but important task will eventually become urgent and move up to the first category.
Tips and tricks for an effective use of the Eisenhower matrix
1. Use a pencil
I really like using a pencil instead of a ball pen. I can erase tasks from one side of the chart and move it to the other easily that way. And I also like clean notes and being able to correct mistakes. Anyway, my whole pencil obsession probably comes from my art school years and my affection for nice handwriting (which I do not have, but that way, I can cover it up better, hehe).
2. Don’t put tasks in »Important« too early
A task can feel important, like making a nice costume for your kid’s birthday party net week. But, with regard to getting your life in order, paying your rent may rank higher. Be aware of that. It is important to be honest about importance, otherwise this chart won’t work. Don’t rank tasks based on emotion—ever.
3. Use the »Not Important & Not Urgent« area together with the two-minute rule
The two-minute rule is basically the idea to get rid of distracting tasks first, if they can be done in < 2min (further reading → David Allen’s book here¹). However, you must be careful, so it does not grow into a form of procrastination aka avoiding the big tasks, using the small ones.
Therefore, I like to check off just a few of the »unimportant and not urgent« tasks everyday, and then move on to the most important and urgent ones. It just feels good, it is easy, and it can really give you a boost of motivation to tackle the more annoying problems of the day.
4. Keep work and private life separate
You might want to consider separate sheets for work and life tasks. Maybe one at work and one at home, or two separate pages in a monthly chapter of your bullet journal.
Separating work and life issues is helpful to keep a healthy distance to work life. Especially e.g. if you have your own small business or work in the home office.
5. Do not include recurring errands and dailies
Daily tasks, shopping lists and recurring errands do not belong on your Eisenhower matrix sheet. Put them in a notebook, on a post-it or your bullet journal.
The Eisenhower matrix is made to be reactive and focused on short-term. You want to work through it on a daily basis. It can not help you feel accomplished and active, if you put any little piece of random busywork on it.
6. Long-term goals don’t belong on the Eisenhower chart
The same goes for long-term goals which will not be addressed anytime soon, such as »buy a house« or »write a book«. Let’s use the book example. If you do want to write a book, a meaningful task for the Eisenhower matrix would be one that can be identified as the first active step to getting started or to keep going. E.g. »write a table of contents« or »brainstorm content ideas«. Don’t confuse tasks with goals.
A task should always be something that can be accomplished in < 10 hours. If something needs more time and effort than that: Split it into digestible pieces.
7. Be specific and concise
In order to make tasks doable, you have to specify what to do. Break them down, or nest bullet points below the task, if necessary. Be specific in what the activity is that needs to be completed, not just the goal or idea behind it.
You would not write down something like »Go for a hike«. Instead, write: »Set a date to go for a hike in the forest around <village xy>«. Tasks should always be broken down in the smallest possible units.
Download the minimalist Eisenhower matrix
Make sure to think before you print and use recycling paper.