Productivity Tools

I facilitated a productivity workshop for a lovely group of staff last week. As I was preparing, it was fun to revisit some of my favorite productivity tools. These include the Eisenhower Matrix, three most important things, Post-it notes, and time blocking. I will describe them for you.

If you’ve attended a workshop on goalsetting, productivity or time management, you’ve probably seen the Eisenhower matrix. It helps you identify what is urgent & important. It is named after Eisenhower mainly due to a speech he gave at Northwestern University in 1954 where he quoted a college president who said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” And, of course, as an army general and President of the United States he had a lot of important and urgent things to do.

Eisenhower’s idea was that you identify which tasks are the most important and urgent and need to be done the same day. I usually identify my 3 most important tasks and put them on a Post-it note on my desk. The goal is to get these items done as soon as possible, preferably in the morning. Then, you identify the important tasks that aren’t urgent and schedule time in your calendar to work on them. There are often the strategic tasks that are easy to put off because they are not urgent, but are actually the tasks that add the most value.

Scheduling time in your calendar to get things done – setting up a meeting with yourself – is called time blocking or time chunking. It’s essentially blocking off chunks in your calendar for predictable, focused time to get the work done. For this to be successful, you actually need use that time for the deep work and not be distracted by the emails flowing into your inbox. For a thorough explanation of time blocking, check out this podcast.

Eisenhower Matrix

When you are planning to your to do list this week, think about tackling your most important and urgent tasks first and then schedule your important but not-so-urgent projects into your calendar to ensure you will give them the attention they need. If you are intrigued by the Eisenhower matrix and would like a worksheet, you can download one that I created for you here.

May you have a productive week, my friends!

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