Time Management: What’s Wrong with the Eisenhower Matrix

Getting more time back in your day is something that most Executive Directors would love to do. We’ve all had those “hold on tight” days where we seem to be hitting balls as they fly at us. One of my favorite ways of dealing with a really busy to do list and prioritizing what to do first is the Eisenhower Matrix. You may have heard of it before, if not, no worries, here’s how it works…. (but make sure you read to the end of this post because there is a BIG PROBLEM that the Eisenhower Matrix can reveal but NOT FIX).

The Eisenhower Matrix Explained

To make an Eisenhower Matrix, you make a 2×2 grid (you can do it on paper or just in your head) with what’s urgent and not urgent on one axis, and what’s important and not important on the other axis (see the diagram below).

  • Everything that’s important and urgent, becomes your top priority.
  • Everything that’s important but not urgent you do next.
  • Everything that is not important but urgent, you try to delegate or schedule for another time.
  • Everything that’s both not important and not urgent can go on the “someday maybe” list or you can just get rid of them completely.

Advanced Eisenhower Matrix

If you dig around the internet for more information on using the Eisenhower Matrix, you’ll find that one of the keys to success when using the Matrix is to hone in on getting your second quadrant items (doing what is important but not urgent). That’s easy for people to say, but when you can barely even tackle all of the urgent important things on your to-do list, how do you ever get to the second quadrant?

Getting to the Non-urgent Important Stuff

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can shift from a full load of dealing with things that are important and urgent, to a state where we have very few or even no urgent things on our plate and the bulk of our time is spent on important but not urgent tasks or projects.

If you need a quick fix on how to prioritize the many things that are on your plate right now, the Eisenhower Matrix will do that for you, but if you’re ready to get out of the cycle of always doing urgent important things, then you need the Accountability Optimizer.

As an Executive Director, it’s critical to the success of your role in leading your organization forward, that you’re able to work on those important but not urgent things. These things tend to have a broader impact across your entire organization and profoundly affect the future success of your organization. That’s why they’re so important.

Getting away from the urgent things knocking at your door is like getting out of a parallel parking spot when you’ve been blocked in front and back. You have to make a series of the right small moves to get out. Sometimes that’s a step back and sometimes it’s an inch forward, but either way, each time you make a good move (even when it’s backward) you get a little more room to maneuver.

Beyond what the Eisenhower Matrix has to offer, there are a lot more moves you can make to get time back in your day! One such move is to reduce context switching (we’ll talk about that in another post), delegate, or invest in automation (this one will feel like a step backwards at first, but will free up a lot of time in the end).

The Accountability Optimizer

I’ve created the Accountability Optimizer to help you figure out your best moves. Since I know you are short on time… you can get it working for you in as little as 10 minutes and it works even when you don’t have anyone to delegate to.


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Going a step beyond prioritization, the Accountability Optimizer is designed to help you change the things you’re working on and the way you’re working on them so that you can stop having your prioritized to-do list filled with those urgent important things and finally get to a place where your prioritized to-do list is primarily not urgent, but pleasantly filled with important tasks and projects that will move your organization forward leaps and bounds.

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