Feeling Swamped? Enter the Productivity Matrix

feet in a swamp metaphor - before using the priority matrix

You know that feeling of drowning in a sea of tasks? Like you’ve been sucked into a whirlpool of ‘to-dos’ and ‘should-have-dones,’ and you’re just about clinging onto the lifebuoy of sanity?

Your life could be saved by the power of the Productivity Matrix!

I first learned about this from reading Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ It was only later that I learned that it was in more general use. It’s sometimes called the Eisenhower Matrix and it is a really powerful way to manage your time and make choices about what needs to be done, and what can wait.

What is the Productivity Matrix?

Think of it as a window with 4 panes, a 2 X 2 grid that is like a magical sorting hat, but for tasks.

It’s got four quadrants, each with its own flavor of urgency and importance:

  1. Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important (The “Get Off Your Backside or else” Quadrant): This quadrant is for tasks screaming for your attention like a toddler on jelly beans.
    These tasks are crucial, they’re loud, and they need doing right now. Fires to put out, deadlines creeping up like ninjas, that sort of thing.
  2. Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but Important (The “This Won’t Bite You… Yet” Quadrant): These tasks are like your mother’s advice – important, but you’re probably ignoring them for now. They’re not going to blow up in your face today, but if you did them they’d help you rule the world (or at least your world) in the long run. Planning, relationship building, learning new skills, or, you know, actually going to the gym.
  3. Quadrant 3: Urgent but Not Important (The “Why Am I Doing This Again?” Quadrant): These are the pesky tasks that demand your time and attention but don’t really help you. They’re the pop-up ads in your daily life. If possible, delegate these tasks. If not, schedule them when you’re least likely to be productive anyway.
  4. Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important (The “Stop Wasting Your Life” Quadrant): These tasks are the sitcom reruns of your to-do list. They’re neither life-changing nor time-sensitive. Minimize these as much as you can or, better yet, throw them into the bin.

Now, imagine the Productivity Matrix as your trusty sidekick, helping you categorize tasks like a pro. It’s not about banishing tasks to the shadow realm, but rather acknowledging where your time is best spent.

In this modern life of multiple pressures and stress, the Productivity Matrix helps shift your focus from being a headless chicken (“busy”) to having a goose that lays golden eggs (“productive”). It ensures you’re spending your time on tasks that matter, aligning with your goals like the North Star. Read Covey and you’ll see what I mean!

The Quadrant that will give you the greatest power to change is number 2. It’s like taking your daily vitamins instead of gorging on protein shakes and energy bars. It will get you exponentially further than spending all your time in the other three.

I make this approach a habit now. It’s my sonic screwdriver and my time machine, rolled into one.

Remember, it’s a living, breathing tool. Your tasks will dance between quadrants as your circumstances cha-cha-change. But with the Productivity Matrix in your toolbox, you’ll surf the waves of time and energy like a pro, leading to a more balanced, less stressful life.

Oh, and did I mention more time for Netflix?

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.