Stop piling up your to-do lists and work smarter

We’re all in the busy end of year period. So much to do and the days are short. For everybody caught up in end of year budgeting, busy family lives, and winter depressions: I got something for you. A model that will help you cut through the mess. I often used this model when coaching Product Owners. Because of the essence of the role, Product Owners have a lot going on. In corporate environments many tasks need to be done at the same time. And then things pile up. So, I help them make wise decisions with a simple model.

Eisenhower Matrix

The model is as old as… well general Eisenhower I suppose. I was surprised to learn that still quite some people never heard of it. And many people who have heard, don’t use it in their day-to-day job. Either way, give it a try!

As you see, the model is all about priorities. And it’s really simple. That’s why it works so well. It gives insight on unproductive behaviour. In the cold December months we are focused on the indoor living. Let’s give you an example how to categorise some household chores.

  • One of your kids spilled his glass of milk. It’s important that you clean it up now. So: just Do it now
  • You know you have to descale the espresso machine every 3 months, otherwise it may break. Or the coffee taste will be off. It’s important that you prevent all of this, because you need your morning coffee more than anything. It’s about time, but it doesn’t matter if you do it now or next week. So: Schedule
  • You like having fresh flowers on the table, and the old ones are getting brown already! It’s not that important, but you like it and it needs to be done soon. You best Delegate it! Perhaps get a subscription to fresh flowers? Or have the Flower shop deliver it?
  • Your mother always ironed the bedsheets. And so do you. But nobody really appreciates the work it takes. And everybody sleeps just as well in wrinkled sheets. So Delete the chore. Bam! Enjoy the time and thank me later. 😁

And now you

I’m sure you can plot your tasks on the matrix just the same.

  1. Draw the matrix on a whiteboard. Take all of your To-Do lists and write each task on a separate Post-IT.
  2. Place the stickies on the matrix, in the right category.
  3. Go over the board again and be strict to yourself. Checking email should probably be in the Delete box. I often tell people it’s enough to check on email 2x a day.
  4. Assess how many of your tasks are in each box.

Now, consider this.  If you are a master of your tasks, most of them should be in Schedule. If the tasks master you, most of them are in Do. Make another pass over the board and see how you have to change things to get task in the Schedule box.

That is why I present a second version with a blown up Schedule box. That looks odd and draws attention. So it helps you do it right.

Yes! I master it, what now?

Download a PDF of the model here, conveniently adjusted with a large Schedule box. So it’ll steer you towards a properly balanced matrix.

In the free time you gained you may learn about Scrum, how backlog prioritisation works. Because the same techniques are applied. Or maybe learn about Kanban. A Lean implementation that uses the same scheduling logic. Or enjoy more time with your family.

Happy Holidays! 🎄🎅🎁