What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.It was President Eisenhower who first said

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

And this led to the development of the Eisenhower Matrix or Method which is at the core of Steven Covey’s third habit. Putting first things first.

When I first started writing this series on Productivity I mentioned a book called The One thing.

Essentially the idea behind this book is that we should find the one thing that brings the most reward and that in many ways is what the Eisenhower Matrix encourages us to do.

There are four quadrants as shown in the image below.

The first quadrant is important and urgent things that need to be done today – For me these are the calls and emails I have to make and write every day to help grow my business.
The second quadrant is important but not urgent things – These are the ones that have the biggest impact on our goals. Exercise for me is the most important one here and reading is the second most important.
The third are the urgent but not important ones, typically those that don’t achieve anything but take up lots of time
The fourth are the worst – Social Media and web browsing can be a great example of this!

Eisenhower Method

In which colour segment do you spend most of your time?

Hopefully in the blue and green areas. If not you should take a look at where you spend your time… The more you spend in the green area the better your life will become.

Covey expands on this idea further in his book First things first but it starts to get a bit more complicated…

So for me I prefer the ideas in The One Thing. Apart from anything else it emphasises the fact that I have only really recently finally began to grasp which is that multitasking just doesn’t work!

It also talks about to-do lists and says that they are not necessarily a good thing as they can fill our day with things which really have no important benefit – the orange segment on the Eisenhower Matrix – and maybe even the red section.

If you have heard of Pareto’s principle (the idea that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your efforts) the one thing takes this to it’s logical conclusion… So you find the 20% that provides the 80% of results and then you narrow that down again and again until you are left with just one thing.

My brother, one of the most successful person I know and who runs a company called Charles Tyrwhitt will say that the secret to his success is being focused on just one thing – Making the best possible men’s shirt. His wife, another one of the most successful people I know, has built her business, The White Company, in much the same way – providing everything white for the home.

And everything that they do on a daily basis with their work is dedicated to making sure that that is where they continue to focus the growth of their businesses.

It sounds remarkably simple – and the fact is that I think it is…

The hard thing is developing the habit of being disciplined enough to focus on your one thing and doing the first things first.

What are the first things you are doing? Can you put your hand on your heart and say that the majority of what you do is focused on the blue and green sections of the Eisenhower Matrix? If you are rather spending all your time on Social Media and in other areas of the orange and red segments then you will take a lot longer to get where you want to go, if you even get there at all.

Love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments and if you have found any value be great if you could click on the share buttons!