April 23

Urgent Important Matrix; What is it, and how does it work?

Productivity is not just about time management, it’s about doing the right tasks at the right time.

That’s the key.

And that’s where Dwight Eisenhower's Urgent Important Matrix comes in - more on that in a minute.

Popularised by Chris Covey in his bestselling book '7 Habit’s of highly effective people', the Eisenhower Matrix (as it’s also known) is one of the most effective productivity systems out there.

Sure, it’s super simple, but all the best things are simple right?

What is the Urgent Important Priority Matrix?

Eisenhower’s Urgent Important Priority Matrix is a grid-like structure made up of four quadrants used for organising tasks in order of importance and urgency.  

Example of Eisenhower's urgent important matrix

Example of Eisenhower's urgent important matrix

Tasks are then placed into their corresponding quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent, but still important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not important
  • Quadrant 4: Neither urgent, or important

How does the Urgent Important Matrix work?

It works by sorting and categorising tasks into quadrants related to their level of urgency, and more importantly, their level of importance.

Do it NOW! Quadrant one.

Quadrant one is for tasks that are both urgent and important.  These tasks should be prioritised above everything else, no matter what.

You should effectively never be working on tasks in any of the other quadrants unless all of quadrant one is complete.

Highly effective people work from here: Quadrant two.

The tasks that sit inside quadrant two are the easiest to put off as there's no urgency attached to them.

And that's what makes them a magnet for procrastination.

It's these tasks that require internal motivation, and high levels of self discipline to complete, because often the fruits of completing these tasks won’t be tasted for months if not years to come.

But it's these types of tasks that have the most significant effect on your life overall, and can paradoxically get you where you want to be faster.

Quadrant two tasks form the backbone of highly effective people, and are one of the notable differences between the Eisenhower Method and the other productivity systems out there.

These tasks are things like:

  • Giving your car a service
  • Connecting with family regularly
  • Taking time off work to watch your kids soccer game
  • Networking with people in your niche
  • Long Term business strategy
  • Reading

Completing and prioritising these tasks ahead of things that are simply urgent, but not important sets you up for long-term sustained happiness and success.

Go you!

The graveyard of productivity; Quadrant three

Quadrant three tasks are the hidden killers to your productivity.  It’s here where most people spend the majority of their time and effort - which is why they rarely achieve anything great.

Dwight Eisenhower's key to success was in delegating/automating away as many of these tasks as possible.  Every task that is delegated away, means more time to focus on high priority task in quadrant two - the types of things that ultimately help you achieve your goals.

Here are some example of quadrant three tasks:

  • Replying to emails
  • Answering phone calls
  • Business meetings

All of these tasks feel urgent, however their value towards you achieving your goals is low.  

This is the graveyard of productivity you’ve got to avoid.  

People who spend too much time in this quadrant are those who always look busy, yet rarely get anything valuable done.

Search and destroy; Quadrant four

You’ve probably guessed it already, but quadrant four is home to those low value, pesky tasks that just seem to take up so much of your damned time.

The biggest culprit (as always) is the smartphone.

What has so much potential as a device for mass productivity, all too often leads to it’s antithesis.

Examples of quadrant four tasks:

  • Checking social media updates
  • Checking google analytics
  •  Watching edutainment videos on YouTube

So, if you want to be a productive machine like our mate Dwight Eisenhower, do as Dwight would do, and send these time sucking vampires to their death.

You can thank me for it later.

Why is this method so effective?

The urgent important matrix isn’t a quick fix solution, and it isn’t going to transform your life overnight.  

In fact, this system is almost more of a way of life.  A way of life where you make the decision to live life on your terms, focusing only on the things that align with your values that help you achieve your goals.  

Everything else gets delegated, automated or deleted away.

The byproduct of this leads to compounding increased time to focus on doing what you love, and being a productive badass along the way.


Charles Duhigg author of the book 'Smarter Faster Better' defines productivity as “making certain choices in certain ways that moves us from being merely busy, to genuinely productive”.

And that's what what the urgent important matrix is all about.

​It's not about just being busy for the sake of it​, far from it.

Instead it's a long-term strategy for keeping the work you do aligned with your values and goals.

Steering on a straight line to your own True-North.

Peace out.


P.S. You're going to love this...

I've only gone and bloody built an app - it's called The Eisenhower Matrix app - it's pretty cool, and you can create a free account here.

Urgent Important Matrix PDF 

[Free Download]

Eisenhower method pdf

Before you go, if you want something you can print off and start using now, download the Urgent and Important Matrix Template here >>

About the author 

Rowan Clifford

Hey, I'm Rowan. I wrote the article above that you found, then read, and we're intrigued enough to check out the bio. You probably don't know how much went in to get you here, but if you're interested, that's exactly what I teach on this blog :)

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