A tool for relieving your brain and getting the right things done

Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes

Me, I’m a prosperity over productivity kinda chick: I’d rather feel alive than get a ton done.

But what I’d really rather is having fun bringing my ideas to life…

While not letting the basics of life fall through the cracks.

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important.
The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Dr J. Roscoe Miller
As quoted by President Eisenhower

I have a reputation for doing what I say I will in a more than reasonable time frame.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t go sideways sometimes, like now when my “to-do” list is on fifty scraps of paper—AGAIN—and weighing on my mind.

Unlike last time, however, I’ve decided to try the Eisenhower Box to end that nonsense for good.

The Eisenhower Box, or Matrix, is a tool our 34th president used in his famously productive life to prioritize things and get the right stuff done.

It’s not guaranteed to make me as productive as Ike (not my goal, anyway), but I am hoping it will help give my brain a break by clarifying what warrants my attention and when.

It works by putting tasks into Do now, Decide When, Delegate and Delete buckets according to their urgency and importance.

“Do now” tasks are both urgent and important.

“Decide when” tasks are important but not urgent.

“Delegate” tasks are urgent but not important.

“Delete” tasks are neither urgent nor important.

What makes my head hurt with a to-do list on scraps is that they’re jumbled and confront me all at once. But by using an Eisenhower Box, I can capture tasks for the day, week, month and so on, that I can file away for later—no need for my brain to sift through tasks today that are months off.

Here’s a sample matrix I could have made for yesterday:

This isn’t true every day, but yesterday cooking fish was both urgent and important to me.

Besides the fact that I was extra hungry, food waste is serious business and no haddock was going bad in my house. And because I take blogging on time seriously (and hadn’t written a story over the weekend), today’s post was a must to get done yesterday.

As for Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s not that they’re never important but they aren’t to me now, with my current goals and aspirations.

So, you could say …

Urgent = what we feel must get done today.

Important = what we feel supports our values and moves us closer to our goals.

Given my highest value is feeling free and alive, it’s important for my “Delete” bucket to be full and “Do now” one to be empty—I move slowly and am not the kind who likes working under pressure. But I’m feeling like that will happen unless I stop working off a task list on scraps and do like Ike!

Stay tuned ’cause I’ve decided it’s important—but not urgent—to let you know what happens. 😊

P.S. So, it turns out that what I need more than an Eisenhower Box is a second brain to relieve my first one. Still, I think the Eisenhower Box is useful for clarifying and achieving goals.

Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for kind people, products and businesses in food, fashion & more. Subscribe to her newsletter here.