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Use the ‘Eisenhower Box’ to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

The Eisenhower Box and it’s a simple decision-making tool that you can use right now.

James Clear

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Dwight Eisenhower lived one of the most productive lives you can imagine.

Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953 to 1961. During his time in office, he launched programs that directly led to the development of the Interstate Highway System in the United States, the launch of the internet (DARPA), the exploration of space (NASA), and the peaceful use of alternative energy sources (Atomic Energy Act).

Before becoming president, Eisenhower was a five-star general in the United States Army, served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and was responsible for planning and executing invasions of North Africa, France, and Germany.

eisenhower

At other points along the way, he served as President of Columbia University, became the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and somehow found time to pursue hobbies like golfing and oil painting.

Eisenhower had an incredible ability to sustain his productivity not just for weeks or months, but for decades. And for that reason, it is no surprise that his methods for time management, task management, and productivity have been studied by many people.

His most famous productivity strategy is known as the Eisenhower Box and it’s a simple decision-making tool that you can use right now.

Here’s how it works.

The Eisenhower Box: Urgent vs. Important

Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organising your tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.

  • Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  • Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  • Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  • Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

The great thing about this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“How should I spend my time each week?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”).

Here is an example of what my Eisenhower Box looks like for today.

Use the 'Eisenhower Box' to Stop Wasting Time and Be More Productive

The Difference Between Urgent and Important

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
– Dwight Eisenhower

Urgent tasks are things that you feel like you need to react to: emails, phone calls, texts, news stories. Meanwhile, in the words of Brett McKay: “Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.”

Separating these differences is simple enough to do once, but doing so continually can be tough. The reason I like the Eisenhower Method is that it provides a clear framework for making the decisions over and over again. And like anything in life, consistency is the hard part.

Here are some other observations I’ve made from using this method:

Elimination Before Optimisation

A few years ago, I was reading about computer programming when I came across an interesting quote:

“No code is faster than no code.”

In other words, the fastest way to get something done — whether it is having a computer read a line of code or crossing a task off your to-do list — is to eliminate that task entirely. There is no faster way to do something than not doing it at all. That’s not a reason to be lazy, but rather a suggestion to force yourself to make hard decisions and delete any task that does not lead you toward your mission, your values, and your goals.

Tim-Ferris

Productivity Guru: Tim Ferris

Too often, we use productivity, time management, and optimisation as an excuse to avoid the really difficult question: “Do I actually need to be doing this?” It is much easier to remain busy and tell yourself that you just need to be a little more efficient or to “work a little later tonight” than to endure the pain of eliminating a task that you are comfortable with doing, but that isn’t the highest and best use of your time.

As Tim Ferriss says, “Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

I find that the Eisenhower Method is particularly useful because it pushes me to question whether an action is really necessary, which means I’m more likely to move tasks to the “Delete” quadrant rather than mindlessly repeating them. And to be honest, if you simply eliminated all of the things you waste time on each day then you probably wouldn’t need any strategies and tips to become more productive at the things that matter.

Does This Help Me Accomplish My Goal?

One final note: It can be hard to eliminate time wasting activities if you aren’t sure what you are working toward. In my experience, there are two questions that can help clarify the entire process behind the Eisenhower Method.

Those two questions are…

  • What am I working toward?
  • What are the core values that drive my life?

These are questions that I have asked myself in my Annual Review and my Integrity Report. Answering these questions has helped me clarify the categories for certain tasks in my life. Deciding which tasks to do and which tasks to delete becomes much easier when you are clear about what is important to you.

Obviously, the Eisenhower Method isn’t a perfect strategy, but I have found it to be a useful decision-making tool for increasing my productivity and eliminating the behaviors that take up mental energy, waste time, and rarely move me toward my goals. I hope you’ll find it useful too.

Based in North Carolina, James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he uses behavior science to share ideas for mastering your habits, improving your health, and increasing your creativity. To receive his most popular articles, join his free weekly newsletter.

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How to Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time

As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.

Nathan Resnick

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Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.

“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.

Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.

That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest 
it wisely.

As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?

Invest your time

Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

Crunch the numbers

James Clear

Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.

Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.

First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.

If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).

Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.

Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.

Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Time Management Is Such A Waste Of Time

Create a system of checks and balances

You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has 
an error.

Consider a few other factors:

  • What do other people make to do your job?
  • What would you pay someone else to do your job?
  • What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?

Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.

Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.

So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.

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(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day

From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.

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There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.

Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.

Related: 5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.

1538429589_9-productivity-mistakes-infographics-7934969f76af5ebe1b5b0b84ce9053ec43752717512fb7d9339e84f86afe91d1

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril

Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?

Toby Nwazor

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An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.

Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.

If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.

Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.

In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.

For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”

Related: Become A Life-Hacker

Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:

1. Automate all you can

automated-emails

From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.

Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.

Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.

2. Invest in customer-relationship management software

It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.

Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.

Related: 11 Ways To Maximise Every Part Of Your Day

3. Set up a task-management system

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Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.

Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.

4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team

How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?

Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.

This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.

5. Block out chunks of time

time-management

Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.

Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.

If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

Wrapping it up

With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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