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The Eisenhower Principle: important or urgent?


The to-do list is full and all tasks seem important and urgent. Where do I start? The Eisenhower principle helps you prioritise your tasks.


  • What is the Eisenhower principle?

  • The Eisenhower matrix with examples

  • How do you implement the Eisenhower principle?

  • Clarity with the Eisenhower principle


Due to numerous email programs and collaboration tools, you often lack an overview of your own tasks. The incoming emails are quickly dealt with, the colleague's question is answered in the coffee kitchen and after the meeting, you finally start with the customer presentation that should actually be ready by noon. In order to start the day with the really important tasks for the company, self-management methods such as the Eisenhower principle help.

With the Eisenhower Principle, you assign a priority to each task, sorted by importance and urgency. This gives you a quick overview of which tasks are important and pushes less important tasks further back on the daily schedule. With this method, the importance of the tasks comes before the urgency.


I have two types of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent ones are not important and the important ones are never urgent.

This is what US President Dwight D. Eisenhower is said to have said. The method named after him divides all pending tasks into four categories:

  • A - important and urgent: These tasks advance your business goal or come from outside with the highest urgency, for example, if there was a problem with a customer. You should complete these tasks on the same day, preferably in the morning when you are still fit.

  • B - important, but not urgent: The client wants a new offer for his future campaign? But he'll only need an answer tomorrow or next week? Then schedule the task in the calendar or hand it over to the account manager and just have a final look over the offer. Longer-term tasks, such as drafting the editorial plan for the next quarter or the new social media strategy, also fall under B.

  • C - urgent but unimportant: You have an important business trip coming up? Delegate the booking of the train and hotel room as well as the layout of the client presentation to the responsible colleagues. This leaves time for the more important tasks of the day.

  • D - unimportant and not urgent: If they are tasks that can be done at some point, collect them in a folder. Or even better, if the tasks and requests are so unimportant, you can move them straight to the wastepaper basket. This saves time, you have only looked at the request once and have made a clear decision. This way you focus on the tasks that are important to the company.


First of all, you have to write down all the pending tasks - no matter how important or unimportant they are - in order to get an overview of the abundance of tasks. In the next step, you can use the ALPEN method, for example, to draw up a daily plan and note down the tasks, including their duration, that you absolutely have to do today because they are particularly important and urgent (A).

If you know how much of your time is already planned, you can write down one or two tasks of the B category in the daily plan and put the rest in the weekly plan.

Which of the tasks (C) can a team member take on? Then reserve time for the briefing as well as for feedback in the daily plan. The remaining tasks, which are not important or urgent, can be collected and given a short time slot each day to complete them. Do you really have to answer every request by email or is it not enough to put some unanswered questions in the basket? You will certainly notice that some of the tasks are not relevant to the company's goals. Then cross them off the list.

Prioritise not only the tasks but also analyse your work rhythm. When do you have your peak periods, when do you need breaks and when can you work through the tedious or monotonous tasks? It is best to do the A-tasks first thing in the morning during the peak phase and distribute the other tasks over the rest of the day. This way you avoid the problem that the important and complex tasks are often tackled too late in the day, because, for example, it is easier to answer 20 emails, but you have to work another night shift to finish the A-task.

To achieve the desired results, the following time management methods can help you to alternate highly concentrated work phases with breaks:

  • Work rhythm 52-17: focused and productive progress is achieved with 52 minutes of work on a task followed by a relaxed 17-minute break.

  • Pomodoro technique: equipped with a timer and a main task, you complete it in 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break.

  • To achieve your business goals, analyse whether you are tackling them efficiently and effectively.

  • And don't forget the time guzzlers: even if you are happy about push messages from your favourite magazine or friends during the day, they constantly pull you out of your tasks. Try to bundle emails, phone calls or the news check into one time slot.

  • ABC method: are the four letters of the Eisenhower principle too much for you? Then you can use the ABC method to sort your tasks according to importance and urgency.

  • Getting-Things-Done method: Record all tasks in lists, prioritise them and then concentrate on completing them.

Tip: especially for large and complex tasks, you need several hours of undisturbed work. Keep a fixed morning or afternoon free for a specific project and inform the team about it. This will help you avoid disruptions and advance the company's goals. You can decide in advance how your colleagues should behave in case of urgent requests during this time.


The Eisenhower principle is worthwhile for all those who want to analyse the importance of their tasks and finally work through them in a more structured way. It helps to get an overview.

Are the tasks that I am currently prioritising really the most important tasks for the company? And which tasks do I consider particularly urgent and are they really that important? Certainly, anyone can quickly determine which tasks are important and urgent (A). But do I tackle the important but not urgent task B first or rather the urgent but not so important task C? You decide this in the context of the tasks at hand in connection with the company's goals.

The balance of the different types of tasks in the daily and weekly schedule is important for the company's success, as well as the clear assignment of whether you have to do the task yourself or a team member, can take it off your hands. Urgent deadlines should not mean that it is best to do everything yourself.

You don't have to fill in the Eisenhower matrix every day, you can also use it to do a priority check on your general tasks. For example, you can decide to reallocate tasks within the team in order to free up time for other important tasks. And remember to finally put the unimportant tasks directly into the wastepaper basket.


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