Eisenhower principle: Effective time management methods for freelancers

Time is precious. Therefore, as freelancers, we should manage our time efficiently. In this article I would like to introduce you to the “Eisenhower Principle”, a very effective time management method. So let’s not lose any time and start right away.

The Eisenhower principle

Perhaps you have heard of the Eisenhower principle. This method for effective time management was developed by former Allied General and later US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He himself used this method to plan military maneuvers and political moves. The Eisenhower principle is also suitable for effective time management in everyday work.

In essence, this principle is about distinguishing important tasks from unimportant tasks. Unimportant tasks are sorted out directly. The tasks that are most important for success are processed first.

The following diagram with a total of four quadrants serves as an aid.

  • Important + urgent (A)
  • Important + not urgent (B)
  • Unimportant + urgent (C)
  • Unimportant + not urgent (D)
Eisenhower principle

Tasks in the A quadrant should be done by yourself immediately. For tasks in the B quadrant, you directly set a date on which you can complete the task yourself. Tasks in the C quadrant can be delegated and tasks in the D quadrant should not be worked on at all.

The Eisenhower principle in practice

Whenever I create my to-do list, I try to make the classification directly according to the Eisenhower principle. I don’t even write down tasks that are assigned to the D quadrant.

The Eisenhower principle in a digital to-do list

Since we ideally do not pay any further attention to the D quadrant, only three quadrants remain. In my smartphone app for reminders I use the built-in priority management function to assign the task to a quadrant.

  • Three exclamation marks stand for quadrant A, important and urgent.
    I try to do these tasks directly at the beginning of the day.
  • Two exclamation marks stand for quadrant B, important but not penetrating.
    For these tasks, I enter an appointment with a reminder tone directly into my to-do list when I create them.
  • An exclamation mark stands for quadrant C, unimportant but urgent.
    For these tasks, I enter an appointment with a reminder tone and, using the sharing function integrated in the app, I share the task with a person who can do this task for me.

Alternatively, you can create a separate list for each of the quadrants.

The Eisenhower principle in a non-digital to-do list

For all those who prefer to write down everyday tasks with pen and paper, I have stored the quadrants of the Eisenhower principle here for printing. In this way I have sorted my tasks in the past. For this purpose, I wrote each task on a sticky note and placed it in the corresponding quadrant.

  • For tasks in the B quadrant I wrote the date directly to the task.
  • Tasks in the C quadrant had an additional note with the person who can do the task for me.

Conclusion

The Eisenhower principle helps me to structure my to-do lists much better. In addition, this technique allows me to set up a concrete daily schedule. Already when I write down the task, I determine when and by whom the task will be completed. It takes a little discipline to integrate the Eisenhower principle into everyday life. Especially on stressful days, one tends to make an ordinary to-do list. But once the Eisenhower Principle has become second nature, you gain structured work processes and learn to separate important from unimportant tasks in a flash. I was particularly surprised to find out how much space is taken up by urgent tasks that are of little importance on closer inspection.

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