How do you deal with deadlines – all those urgent and important things in life?  Using the Eisenhower Matrix can help us, both when we are healthy and when we are ill. 

Urgent and important

When we are healthy, most often it is work or family members that impose deadlines on us. When we are sick, all the pressing and important things tend to be the many medical appointments and treatment decisions. Whatever the source, deadlines can be stressful and create a lot of pressure for us. 

Freedom from deadlines

On the other hand, when we retire we may suddenly have freedom from deadlines. We may have been craving such freedom. Yay! I can finally do what I want when I want… But then, the lack of deadlines in our lives leaves us feeling lower in self-esteem and wondering what we have achieved during the week. How can we still feel good about ourselves when it seems like we haven’t got anything to show for the week?  

Necessary evil?

Yes, although deadlines can be stressful, we do gain a sense of self-satisfaction when we achieve them. We have accomplished something. We started something and finished it by the deadline. We can judge our performance by such things. Without deadlines, and all those things that we used to do quickly, we now take our time over and stretch them out. Then when something new comes along, we sometimes lose confidence that we can accomplish it.

So deadlines can work for and against us. Maybe they are a necessary evil? Can we find a way to deal with deadlines to increase our happiness and satisfaction?

Eisenhower matrix

Using a business model might help us find a better balance in this area of our lives – whether we have too many or too few deadlines. This can go a long way to reducing our stress levels. 

Steven Covey, in his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, uses the Eisenhower Matrix to explore the importance and urgency of what we do. The matrix is shown at the top of this blog. Take a look.

The matrix looks at tasks in terms of their urgency and importance. Urgent things need to be done immediately. Important things, on the other hand, tend to be part of long term goals. Deadlines are what makes urgent tasks urgent. And a lack of deadlines can often make important tasks seem less important. They become the kind of thing you’ll get around to one day.

How to use the Eisenhower matrix

Using the matrix can help in our productivity. It helps us decide what should be done first and what someone else can help us with or what we can ignore. To use the matrix, it often helps to write out a to-do list. Then draw out the matrix on a piece of paper and start filling in your tasks from the to-do list into their appropriate quadrant.

This is an example of mine today:

Eisenhower matrix from

The critical quadrant in the matrix is the IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT one. We need to shift our thinking to begin to take on tasks that are important but not urgent – whether we have too many urgent ones right now or too few. Within the IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT quadrant tends to be all those things that are our dreams and hopes. The if-only-I-had-time things, or the creative things. But putting the focus on the important/urgent quadrant robs us of our time, so we can’t achieve the non-urgent/important things. 

So see if you can use the matrix to reflect and understand what we consider urgent, how often we do important tasks, and how often we are doing unimportant tasks that maybe others could do either at work or to support us if we are ill. 

Scheduling and delegating

Start writing schedules for the important but not urgent things. That way you will get them done. And tell people about them – then we are more likely to stick to the schedule. In that quadrant are key things that really make a difference in our lives. Whether we are healthy or going through a health issue, we still need to make time for that quadrant. That’s where we get satisfaction and happiness in our lives.

And if you aren’t well, look at those things in the non-important/urgent quadrant and see if they are areas where you can ask for help and support from others.  Maybe someone else can return phone calls and emails from friends for you if you are tired and feeling overwhelmed. A friend can do little jobs that will help you. The matrix helps you see where you can get some help.

Let’s get scheduling and delegating.

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