Plan or Fail to Plan – Business Strategy to Success

By Mona Tenjo

Manage Your Tasks Like A President

US-President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general in World War II and elected 34th president of the United States of America. Being very familiar with commanding structures, orders and discipline, he also was known for creating the so-called “Eisenhower matrix”, a task management system that helps organizing tasks and prevent or solve overwhelm.

In the last article “6 Symptoms of Overwhelm”, we identified the most common indicators of overwhelm. Identifying overwhelm is the first step to solving it, but it is important to develop mechanisms and techniques to handle and prevent future overwhelm.

What do you do when you identified that you suffer from overwhelm?

First of all, take a deep breath and keep calm. You don’t need to carry the world on your shoulders. Understand that no matter where you are right now, it is 100% in your hands to improve your situation and how you feel about it.

Start by finding yourself a quiet space and make sure that nobody will disturb you. Take a piece of paper and start writing down EVERYTHING that you think you need to do. Write down everything, don’t stop until you can’t think of anything else. Then take a break, get a coffee, tea, water or whatever – just walk away from it for a moment.

After the short break, you apply the concept of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the so-called “Eisenhower matrix”.

This 2 by 2 matrix categorizes tasks into 4 sectors:

  • Urgent & Important: Do it

These tasks deserve your highest attention and need to be done right away by yourself.

  • Urgent, but not important: Delegate it

These tasks are urgent, that means they need to be done but they can be done by somebody else. Thus, you delegate these tasks to somebody else so you can work on the “Do it” tasks.

  • Important, but not urgent: Schedule it

These tasks need to be done, but not right away. They are important for your development and progress, but they can be scheduled for a later time. These tasks are often forgotten until they become urgent. If you just schedule them early enough, you can save yourself a lot of stress.

  • Not important and not urgent: Eliminate a.k.a. “just leave it”

This bucket here is in fact most of our daily work. These tasks occupy our time but don’t help us progress. Stop doing them.

Mark all your activities with different colors representing the different fields of the matrix or alternatively, move them into the matrix (pun intended) or create a short table to help you sort them.

Once you are done, you start and take all the delegable tasks and hand them over first. Let me repeat this: Delegate first what needs to be delegated! Because you are the bottleneck for these operations! If you are not handing these tasks over before you start working on other tasks, nobody can support you.

“To scale yourself, you need to put other people into a situation where they are able to support you. “- Mona Tenjo

Next, you schedule the “Schedule it” tasks. You may wonder: “Why? I can do them later. Why should I worry about them now?”

Even though you may think you don’t worry about them, it is a fact that your brain continues working on those tasks if you did not put them into your calendar! Your brain wants to remind you constantly that you still need to get things done. It only has good intentions, but it keeps you from focusing on your top priority tasks. It takes just a few moments to schedule them but now your brain can let go of thinking about it.

Finally, you start working on your “Do it” tasks and make sure you make progress on them. One after another, depending which one is the most urgent. Schedule time for each topic and process them. Avoid getting disrupted during these sessions. Schedule time for questions of your delegated tasks to provide feedback. Let your team know when you will be available for questions. This will reduce interruptions.

Applying this methodology will make you as effective as a President. Eisenhower used to work successfully exactly like this. You can do that too!