Eisenhower decision matrix in project management

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== The four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix ==
== The four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix ==
[[File: Eisenhower matrix example.jpg]]
[[File: The Eisenhower matrix .jpg]]

Revision as of 21:29, 6 March 2022



In project management there are numerous roles that are attaining the success of a project by balancing the competing constraints on a project with the resources available. The Eisenhower matrix is a frequently used model for project & time management that increases productivity. It is a framework that helps you prioritize a list of activities or assignments by classifying them according to their urgency and significance. It categorizes tasks into four boxes, indicating which should be prioritized, delegated, or deleted. [1] The priority on decision-making for different categories of assignments can make the difference between project success and failure and maintaining a balance that can help determine the overall quality of a project.

The Eisenhower matrix is a model that can emphasize change in a project. These changes occur because of the environment that projects operate within. Therefore, projects need a good approach to allocate time to activities that are important in addition to those that are urgent. This distinction must be understood to avoid the stress of having too many tight deadlines. The theory helps project managers to better understand the trade-off dynamics among the four quadrants in the Eisenhower matrix, which simplifies the decision-making process of project management. Even though the Eisenhower matrix is a decent indicator regarding project management success, it is not necessarily the only marker of overall project success.

The project scope can be delivered on time and within budget but ultimately result in an unsuccessful project, since there are several other aspects that contribute to a project´s efficacy. This article will describe the essence of the Eisenhower matrix, how project managers can apply the concept in practice and limitations of the theory.

History of the Eisenhower decision matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix model was designed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. Eisenhower also served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces during World War II and subsequently led NATO. He was well-known for his strategic and productive mind.

Eisenhower effectively de-escalated Cold War situations, ending the Korean War and keeping the United States at peace. Eisenhower was a skilled organizer who managed to stay on top of things by differentiating between the important and the urgent. When asked what principle he adheres to when dealing with his multiple obligations, he stated, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” This principle was built on this premise, later known as the Eisenhower Matrix.[2]

The four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix

File:The Eisenhower matrix .jpg

The Eisenhower Matrix contains four quadrants that help prioritizing tasks based on their urgency. By determining if an assignment belongs in one of these quadrants, it becomes easier to prioritize, delegating to another or include it in a timetable.

The first quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix "Do" consists of the most important tasks. The assignments on this quadrant are critical activities that must be completed as soon as possible. These are the activities that must be completed to avoid adverse effects. Crises, deadlines, and pressing concerns are examples of the "Do" quadrant. These tasks generally take the most time because of the amount of effort they require.

For putting tasks in this category, it's necessary to thoroughly analyze the priorities first for the assignments and then decide if they fit in the "Do" quadrant. For instance, if the task needs to be done within a day, or no longer than the next day, it is an urgent task. The "schedule" Quadrant: These are important tasks but not urgent. They have a considerably greater influence on a long-term ability to meet the firm's objectives. This might entail a wide range of responsibilities ranging from emails, follow-ups, to more personal appointments etc. Generally, these tasks are in line with long-term goals and contribute to growth.[3]

Quadrant two "schedule" allows the project manager to focus on opportunities and growth rather than obstacles and problems. When most of the tasks fall in this quadrant, the project manager needs to be proactive and prioritize activities while also contributing to achieving important goals. It is essential that the tasks need to be scheduled in a such a manner that they do not fall into the ‘urgent’ category. The project manager must ensure that there is adequate time to execute them while they still fit in this division.[4]

The "Delegate" Quadrant: These tasks are not as important, but they are nonetheless urgent. The tasks could for instance include scheduling interviews, replying to certain emails, or team meetings or other activities that could be delegated to others. The project manager could conduct those tasks by himself. However, it would be more rational to delegate these tasks to others, which would result in a more effective approach of managing the workload and giving other team members the opportunity to broaden their skill set. This might also lead to increased production and efficiency, as well as more time for the team to complete the activities in the first two quadrants, since completing tasks in the third quadrant does nothing to inch them closer to their long-term goals.[5]

The last quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix is "Delete". These consist of tasks that are essentially a waste of time and do not contribute to the team's productivity. They do not contribute at all towards the goals. Therefore, it's important to identify these activities and eliminate them. Examples of significant tasks that are time wasters could include wasting time on unimportant and non-urgent emails.[6]

The difference between urgent and important tasks

The Eisenhower Matrix was also known as Urgent Important Matrix, because during Dwight D. Eisenhower's career, he frequently had to take many difficult decisions; everything was urgent and important. He wondered what urgency meant exactly and reached the conclusion that if it didn't need to be done today, it wasn't urgent.[7]

By determining if a task or assignment is urgent or important, we need to understand the distinction:

  • Important activities are tasks that contribute to projects long-term goals, objectives, and values. They might not produce instant outcomes which makes them easier to overlook, but however, they are occasionally, but not always, urgent.
  • Urgent activities are tasks that are time-sensitive, and demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving the clients’ goals, such as handling an urgent request from the client. They demand attention, because there are clear consequences if these tasks aren’t complete within a certain timeline.

Knowing which activities are important and which are urgent, will provide adequate time to determine what is essential to the project's success, while unimportant activities will be assigned or removed. [8]

File:Priority figure.jpg

The figure depict Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle, which helps to quickly identify the activities that require attention, as well as those that should be neglected It is essential to point out that important tasks might become urgent if they are postponed for a long time. It is natural to assume that all urgent tasks are likewise important, which is usually not the case. This misconception may be due to our predisposition for focusing on current problems and solutions.

Relation to project management

Portfolio, program, and project management provide a structured way to align and effectively carry out organizational strategies. However, there is a difference in their focus and contribution to the attainment of strategic objectives and the theory regarding the Eisenhower matrix is primarily associated with project management. Project management is the application of knowledge, tools, and techniques to meet the project's requirements. Project management consequently helps organizations to increase chances of success and growth, as well as meet business objectives. On the other hand, poorly managed projects may result in cost overruns, missed deadlines etc. Utilizing the Eisenhower matrix can help project managers with these common challenges. Eisenhower is very critical regarding project management because when one know how to organize, schedule and delegate tasks this will lead to achieving the desired goals of the project. [9] Through that matrix, project managers could specify ways to:

  1. Determine the importance of the tasks to the project
  2. The effort needed to achieve the required tasks
  3. The time required to complete the tasks – meeting the deadlines.

In other words, the Eisenhower Matrix can help managers to do the right thing, at the right time and in the right place. However, the most tricky part of the Eisenhower Matrix for time management is to classify tasks depends on the importance and the urgency. And the best way to avoid such a conflict is to use an algorithmic perspective on the Eisenhower Matrix. This could be started by specify some statements to make it related to importance and urgency such as follows.

The statement of importance:

- Critical to the company
- Related directly to projects
- Not a worthy task

The statements of urgency:

- Deadline is soon.
- No deadline has been set for this task
- Not needed anytime soon.

The following matrix will demonstrate the concept.

File:Matrix example.jpg

As we have demonstrated, the Eisenhower Matrix and Project management are a perfect technique to assist organizations to increase chances of success and growth. However, the Eisenhower may also not be ideal when there are too many tasks to be taken care of a single department. Because it might be time constraint to categorize them and classifying them especially in a changing environment, which will lead us to write more about limitations in the next paragraph.

Limitation of the Eisenhower decision matrix

We have seen that organizing, scheduling, delegating, and deleting tasks are critical steps to maximizing task productivity by segregating tasks on the basis of importance and urgency of deliverables. However, prioritization based on metrics will result in two main issues:

- 1. The results of prioritization are rather arbitrary: This is due to the fact that there are some situations where factors are unknown until a decision is made. So the negative outcome of a decision might results in huge costs and resources to the company. There are many research and prototypes that helps in prioritizing. However, the large number of ideas means as well the semi-impossibility to do this with each one. It might appear some frameworks that could assist in solving this problem by incorporating a confidence component. However, these frameworks that make it easier to distinguish high-value low-effort items among others are generally straightforward to recognize, even without the assistance of frameworks.
- 2. Prioritization frameworks address the wrong problems: The central idea behind the prioritization is the capability and confidence in doing, scheduling, delegating, or deleting tasks. However, prioritization frameworks might address too many problems by delegating and scheduling too many projects. These can be illustrated when telling stakeholders that their tasks are not going to be executed right now could result in teams taking on too many projects or tasks. Taking too many projects will result that the team would not have enough time for execution or for revisions that are needed to ensure the expected business value is delivered.[10]

Optimization of the Eisenhower decision matrix

A well-aligned team may be more beneficial than any theoretical framework-based prioritizing. If all the inputs are gathered and the top priorities are discussed by the team could be superior approach to prioritization.

The degree of success is likely to be higher if the entire team believes in the idea and strategy, which are a shared team decision. Every team member will be eager to contribute their best efforts because they feel a part of the process and decisions since their voice is heard and considered. People want the endeavor to succeed, so they offer their best ideas for improvement and brainstorm high-quality solutions. People want the project to succeed, by contributing their finest suggestions for improvement and develop high-quality solutions.

Strong leadership is also important, since leaders should set clear, well-defined goals for their teams while allowing them to make their own priority judgments and encourage them to focus on fewer ideas. Only in this manner will the team make innovations that genuinely add value to users and businesses.[11]

Another potential strategy to optimize the Eisenhower matrix is to use different IT-tools that may adapt criteria relevant to the team's objectives and performance, as well as eliminate bias in judgment within the team, which can have a detrimental influence on the whole process.



  1. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm
  2. https://hello.ducalis.io/prioritization-frameworks/tst?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=search-dsa-tofu-ww_15271674469&utm_content=Framework:Eisenhower-Matrix_135463940611&utm_term=&gclid=CjwKCAiA6seQBhAfEiwAvPqu10QVnTUw0v7sqhlogq34mHlgYEMBB6bUtXIkep99oIUx9j37WNWGAxoCk3oQAvD_BwE
  3. https://www.ntaskmanager.com/blog/eisenhower-matrix/
  4. https://www.ntaskmanager.com/blog/eisenhower-matrix/
  5. https://www.ntaskmanager.com/blog/eisenhower-matrix/
  6. https://www.ntaskmanager.com/blog/eisenhower-matrix/
  7. https://www.toolshero.com/personal-development/eisenhower-matrix/
  8. https://slab.com/blog/eisenhower-matrix/
  9. Jyothi, N.S. and Parkavi, A., 2016, May. A study on task management system. In 2016 International Conference on Research Advances in Integrated Navigation Systems (RAINS) (pp. 1-6). IEEE.
  10. https://hello.ducalis.io/prioritization-frameworks/tst?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=search-dsa-tofu-ww_15271674469&utm_content=Framework:Eisenhower-Matrix_135463940611&utm_term=&gclid=CjwKCAiA6seQBhAfEiwAvPqu10QVnTUw0v7sqhlogq34mHlgYEMBB6bUtXIkep99oIUx9j37WNWGAxoCk3oQAvD_BwE
  11. https://hello.ducalis.io/prioritization-frameworks/tst?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=search-dsa-tofu-ww_15271674469&utm_content=Framework:Eisenhower-Matrix_135463940611&utm_term=&gclid=CjwKCAiA6seQBhAfEiwAvPqu10QVnTUw0v7sqhlogq34mHlgYEMBB6bUtXIkep99oIUx9j37WNWGAxoCk3oQAvD_BwE
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