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Improving Your Time Management: Time-Management Matrix

By Mei BeiNo Comments

Most individuals, regardless of their occupation, tend to give attention to tasks that yell the loudest priority over those that are actually the most important. A global survey revealed that people spend more than 40% of their time at work performing tasks that are ultimately unimportant and non-urgent.

We have a great opportunity to redirect the time that is wasted to something more worthwhile. The answer to this is to understand time management. The time management matrix is one method that can aid in improved time management.

Background of Time Management Matrix

President Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, was the person who came up with the Time Management Matrix. As a commander in the U.S. Army, then as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Forces, and subsequently as president of the United States, he used it to help him prioritize and handle the numerous matters he encountered.

However, in 1989, Stephen Covey popularised Eisenhower's Time Management Matrix in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the best productivity books ever. Covey's work led Eisenhower's Time Management Matrix to become one of the most well-known and effective time-management strategies and decision-making frameworks in business.

What is Time Management?

Time management is known as the practice of managing and planning how to split your time between various activities. It refers to efficiently managing time so that an appropriate amount of time is allotted to the appropriate activity.

By learning time management skills, you will be able to consciously manage the amount of time you spend on different tasks, working smarter than harder to complete more tasks in lesser time. This makes good use of the time you have as time is finite.

Effective planning, creating goals and objectives, defining deadlines, assigning responsibility, prioritizing tasks based on importance, and allocating the appropriate amount of time to each task are all part of time management. 

Why does Time Management Matter for Entrepreneurs?

Time is one of the most valuable yet finite resources. The objective is to identify efficient ways to manage that time. While effective time management is vital for everyone, it is especially important for entrepreneurs. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs who wear multiple hats and are responsible for managing every aspect of their business.

An entrepreneur, for instance, may take on the workload of How To Use The Time Management Matrix up to three employees. As a result, they frequently multitask, which is not perceived as giving their best effort or feeling satisfaction. To effectively advance a business, an entrepreneur needs to know which tasks should be completed first, how much time should be allotted to each activity, and what work should be delegated to others.

The entrepreneur must lead by example for the team. If an entrepreneur makes time management a priority, it will serve as a guide for everyone's attention to practice effective time management to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire business.

Understanding the Time Management Matrix

The Time Management Matrix utilizes a 2x2 grid to rank tasks and assists decision-making based on two factors, the task's importance to the business's overall success and the urgency of tasks. These two factors are located on the matrix's corresponding axes. 

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” 

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

The urgency axis runs horizontally. Deadlines play a big part in determining how urgent work is. The urgency is portrayed by jobs that need to be immediately completed or have already passed their deadlines. External pressure and forces are what create urgency. 

The important axis is located vertically. The impact or major change an activity can have on one’s life determines its importance. There is no time constraint or impending deadline for it. The importance of a task depends on the views and circumstances of the individual.

Four Quadrants of Time Management Matrix

The matrix divides each task based on its urgency and importance, which is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant is unique and differs based on the two key factors. Utilizing this matrix will enhance both your personal and professional life and encourage efficiency.

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent 

The first quadrant is devoted to important and urgent tasks, also referred to as the tasks that should be prioritized and immediately finished. There are numerous categories of tasks that we must complete on time and that are crucial. The jobs in this quadrant, however, necessitate immediate attention. You can be forced to neglect your other obligations by the work at hand.

The items in this quadrant may also generate tension due to their importance and urgency. Many people can put their entire focus on this quadrant, despite the fact that it is extremely stressful. Spending too much time in this area can prevent you from potentially growing bigger. Therefore, being aware of these tasks and properly classifying them will ensure that you devote the necessary attention and effort to them.

Consider the scenario where you were conducting a crucial meeting in your office when a fire alarm went off. Which task is more important and urgent? Will you ask to look for the fire extinguishers or will you ask to continue your meeting? As opposed to the meeting, the fire alarm needs more attention. You can change the date of your meeting, but you can't wait for the fire to reach you before it spreads. 

Quadrant 2: Not urgent yet important

The tasks in this quadrant are equally as vital as those in the first, although being less urgent. They don't interfere with your deadlines or other responsibilities, and they don't call for quick action. Therefore, these are tasks that can be scheduled. You are given the freedom to relax a bit and perform more efficiently in this quadrant.

It includes tasks that will help you develop a sense of discipline and determination as well as recognize and focus on the things you can manage. Usually, it will consist of those significant jobs and undertakings that typically form a component of long-term objectives. These jobs require long-term preparation in order for you to do them by a specified deadline.

For instance, if you are working on a project and a lengthy project typically without any specific date and time, you can choose a period of time such as six months or a year. Using a new daily to-do list and monthly Gantt charts, you will organize this project appropriately. Although there is no particular deadline that must be followed, there is a timeline set.

Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important

Quadrant 3, also known as attention-seeking distractions, is the activities or tasks at hand which are urgent yet not as important at the moment. These tasks received just eat up your productive working hours. It is jam-packed with unproductive tasks that don't significantly contribute to your work, objectives, or productivity. You want to spend as little time in this quadrant as possible. Commonly, people spend a lot of their time on tasks in quadrant 3, “urgent but not important” to mistake it for quadrant 1, “important and urgent”. They spend most of their time responding to urgency and consider it to be equally important. However, being urgent does not mean that the tasks are also as important. 

Meetings, phone calls, emails, and other interruptions are examples of tasks that prevent you from being productive and can be assigned to others. In order to check on the status of tasks that have been assigned, you should maintain track of them through any means of contact to ensure that it is still being completed.

A call for a favour urgently or a request for you to enter a meeting is an example of a delegated task. You might outsource these duties by suggesting a more qualified colleague or by providing others with the information required to handle the situation on their own.

Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent

This quadrant should receive the least attention because it is "not important and not urgent," meaning it is a complete waste of time. Your energy is drained away as you spend more time here, and it is easy to find yourself engaging in procrastination activities such as checking social media, watching television, or playing video games. Since these activities are commonplace and do not involve much mental effort, they make it easy for our minds to get distracted from more important duties during the day. It is suggested to eliminate them or alleviate them to scale back on the activities. To identify which activities have the lowest priority, it is crucial to decide what belongs in this quadrant.

Eisenhower's Time Management Matrix

How To Use The Time Management Matrix?

Knowing the Time Management Matrix is useful if you know how to apply it appropriately. Here are some tips to help you manage this matrix:

Be clear on task deadlines 

The deadline for the allocated work should be clearly understood before experimenting with the Time Management Matrix. Create a list of the tasks you'll be completing over the course of the month, either daily or weekly.

Once you have accurately specified each job's deadlines, include them in your list. Knowing when tasks must be completed may help you set priorities for what must be done and what can wait. To help you determine the urgency of your actions in the next phase, take note of any approaching deadlines.

Sort tasks by significance

There are a lot of activities and tasks around us that we have to complete, which could be personal or professional. Even though our days are filled with busy routines, we constantly spend our energy on things that are unimportant or irrelevant to our jobs. After determining how crucial each activity is to your schedule, rank the activities according to their importance.

This will make it easier for you to fully comprehend which tasks cannot be delayed and which ones you may put off for the time being. It can also assist in creating a schedule to complete these crucial tasks in order of importance. It is vital to say no to less significant requests based on one's current ability. Being a helping hand to others is admirable, but when you cannot, you should decline rather than focus on things you can't control or that are out of your power.

Keep track of your performance

We create goals with deadlines, but achieving those goals is not always guaranteed. It's crucial to monitor how well the target is being carried out and what changes may be made to make it better. You can create an action plan to direct you in this. Whether or not you followed your action plan today, you need to monitor your performance each day by looking at it.

This will make it easier to spot the areas where your objective or targets need improvement. It will demonstrate how frequently you have absconded from your plan and how much more concentration or other adjustments are required. Perhaps you have been given too much work, and it would be better to assign it to others.

Determination of the four quadrants

Example of Time Management Matrix

As an entrepreneur, you can be concentrating on a variety of various aspects of your enterprise. For instance, if the hat of the Director of Product is worn, it is crucial to maintain a high-performing product team and make sure that everyone on the team understands the goals, vision, and objectives.

Quadrant 1
Address key customer issues or client request
Complete product vision
Report on KPIs and metrics
Submitting draft proposal
Quadrant 2
Mentor staff
Long-term business planning
Competitor analysis
Preparation, planning, and prevention
Quadrant 3
Unimportant meetings
Answering emails 
Scheduling interviews 
Quadrant 4
Trivia activities 
Escape activities
Checking social media
Any form of procrastination

Here are three examples of how the Time Management Matrix might be used in our thought process to make it more realistic and applicable.

  • The meeting Emily attended revealed some concerns in the marketing department, so she was unable to respond to emails in the morning. She categorized the emails as tasks to catch up with tomorrow because brainstorming a solution was more important and urgent than the emails.
  • Amelia was working on a project that needed immediate attentiveness as specific issues arose. Her son, however, has been ill for a few days and needs to go to the hospital. She recognized that her son's health is more important and urgent than the project and assigned the project's necessary duty to her most dependable colleague. 
  • The client Olivia was scheduled to meet at 11 and arrived 30 minutes early because they had extra questions to ask her. She was supposed to talk to her daughter's teacher about her grades before the client meeting, but she knew it was not necessary yet, so she postponed it until after she got home. To avoid making her client wait, she made the decision to move the client meeting early.

Advantages of Time Management Matrix

Knowing what is important and urgent

  • Sort and classify tasks in the appropriate quadrant. 
  • Prompts you to think about how important your tasks are.
  • Aids in reassessing the urgency of the duties.

Increases organization skills 

  • Enable you to carefully consider the responsibilities you have to complete and organize them accordingly. 
  • Enhances self-awareness and aids in the development of self-analysis.

Develop your ability to plan and make decisions

  • Knowing your obligations and duties and how you will carry them out helps increase productivity. 
  • Plan your weeks so that they include time for friends, family, and your personal life in addition to work which assists in making quick decisions


The ability to effectively manage time allows one to do the right thing at the right time. Although time management may be a personal concern, many general principles also apply to entrepreneurs. In both personal and professional life, it is crucial.

Time Management Matrix, a productivity tool, explains and categorizes responsibilities to help entrepreneurs on their way to being an effective individual. As you utilize the matrix more frequently, you will become more aware of where your task falls in each quadrant. After that, all you have to do is to organize your time wisely.


What is Time Management?

Time Management for Entrepreneurs

Four Quadrants of Time Management Matrix

Use of Time Management Matrix

Example of Time Management Matrix

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