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The Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Art of Manliness website has a great article on priority setting and coherently organizing your life. This is not a weak area for me now, but it is nice for me to review and certainly worth sharing here.

I am not going to post the article; just a short overview and link. As usual, if you are intrigued, click the link. The website in general and this article in particular are worth investigation.


What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life

The Difference Between Urgent and Important

Urgent means that a task requires immediate attention. These are the to-do’s that shout “Now!” Urgent tasks put us in a reactive mode, one marked by a defensive, negative, hurried, and narrowly-focused mindset.

Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals. Sometimes important tasks are also urgent, but typically they’re not. When we focus on important activities we operate in a responsive mode, which helps us remain calm, rational, and open to new opportunities.

It’s a pretty intuitive distinction, yet most of us frequently fall into the trap of believing that all urgent activities are also important. This propensity likely has roots in our evolutionary history; our ancestors concentrated more on short-term concerns than long-term strategy, as tending to immediate stimuli (like a charging saber-toothed cat) could mean the difference between life and death.

Modern technologies (24-hour news, Twitter, Facebook, text messaging) that constantly bombard us with information have only heightened this deeply engrained mindset. Our stimulus-producing tech treats all information as equally urgent and pressing. Miley Cyrus’ Twerk-gate is given the same weight as important D.C. policy discussions.

We are, as author Douglas Rushkoff claims, experiencing “present shock” – a condition in which “we live in a continuous, always-on ‘now’” and lose our sense of long-term narrative and direction. In such a state, it is easy to lose sight of the distinction between the truly important and the merely urgent.

The consequences of this priority-blindness are both personal and societal. In our own lives, we suffer from burnout and stagnation, and on a broader level our culture is unable to solve the truly important problems of our time.

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