Inboxes and the Eisenhower Method

Ever since returning to work I noticed that I had an issue with prioritizing incoming signals (emails, calls, Slack messages, someone just coming in and asking me something …). No matter what I’m working on, the incoming signal takes over and I enter a state of extremely high nervousity bordering on panic. A couple of years ago I had pretty much the same issue and eventually learnt to just acknowledge the signal, put it into my GTD inbox, and move back to whatever I was working on before.

Weirdly enough, this is something I forgot how to do properly. Perhaps the friction that is inherent to the Bullet Journal Method is working against me in this case. Perhaps I just want to keep my journal too nice and not fill it with quick scribblings and that’s keeping me from treating it like an inbox. This is something I should most likely work on and getting rid of my protectiveness for the journal in order to make it useful as an inbox again.

This doesn’t help with prioritizing items, though. Whenever I enter something into my journal, it, by default, receives the same priority as pretty much anything else. OK, let’s ignore the high-priority tasks for now that I annotate with a little * . A friend recommended that I might get some benefit out of using the Eisenhower Method for this.

            Urgent       |   Not urgent
                         |
Important   FIRE!        |   Exercising
                         |
-------------------------+-------------------------
                         |
Unimportant Lunch order  |   Angry Birds
                         |
                         |

If you’ve never heard of that method before, it’s basically a two-dimensional graph/matrix where you put items on an “urgency” and an “importance” axis. Items that are not urgent nor important can be dropped immediately. Those that are urgent but not important might be delegated to somebody else. Important but not urgent tasks can be postponed while urgent and important tasks should be tackled on right away.

I’ve now been experimenting with this method for a couple of weeks, trying to find a place that fits. At this point I’m mostly using it to look back at the past week. Was the priority I gave a certain task really correct in hindsight? Should I have delegated it to somebody else or dropped it altogether?

Next, I want to integrate it into my inbox-processing workflow. I’m currently thinking about using a spread per week where all incoming tasks are put into one of the four quadrants of the Eisenhower matrix. I’m not yet sure if this matrix will become my actual inbox or if I still use rapid-logging for capturing new stuff and just organize those items in a quiet minute into the matrix. I guess this will be something to iterate on 😅

If you’re also using pen-and-paper to organize your daily life, how are you prioritizing your tasks? Is the single “high prio” indicator enough for you or are you using something more elaborate?

Do you want to give me feedback about this article? Please send it to comments@zerokspot.com.

Alternatively, I'm also experimenting with Webmentions. If you write a post on a blog that supports this technique, I should get notified about your link 🙂