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Ditch the To-Do List - How to prioritize and increase productivity using the Eisenhower Matrix

When you tell someone you struggle with ADHD - "lists" and "schedules" are always the answer. But it's not really "creating the lists" that is the problem. It's figuring out where to start once the list is made.

I did the stereotypical audhd thing, and the order in which I wrote my to-do list was the order it got done in. It didn't matter how productive or realistic that method was; it was what I did. I couldn't figure out how to prioritize. I couldn't figure out what should actually be on that list.

My to-do list was more like a brain dump. Everything I wanted to do that I didn't want to forget was on that list, regardless of if it was for a hobby, my business, or the house. So "do the dishes" was next to "crochet a king-sized blanket." And if crocheting a blanket came before doing the dishes. Guess which one got done first. Consequences be damned.

I just couldn't figure it out.

And then in walks in the Eisenhower Matrix

What is the Eisenhower Matrix

How can it help you?

I started using the Eisenhower Matrix after a good friend brought it up after listening to me cry about my never-ending to-do list (for the umpteenth time).

It has been a total game-changer.

The idea behind the Eisenhower Matrix is to take your to-do list and organize those tasks into one of the four quadrants to help you identify what should be addressed and when.

How do you use the Eisenhower Matrix?

Quadrant One

Quadrant one consists of your tasks that are "urgent and important." These tasks have deadlines and consequences for not completing them on time. Things like "pay the mortgage" and "emailing a prospective client back" could be considered urgent and important. This is not going to be the bulk of your to-do list.

Once you've finished your matrix - schedule these tasks ASAP. Make a solid plan on when you will complete these tasks before you end up with unwanted consequences (like the electricity getting shut off after one too many forgotten bills).

Quadrant Two

In quadrant two, we have "not urgent but important." These are activities or tasks that don't have a deadline but are aligned with your goals. This could be meal planning, signing up for the gym, or tuning up your resume. This quadrant should hold the majority of your to-do list.

Side note - self-development and rest belong in this quadrant. Don't argue - you are important, and you belong in this quadrant.

Now what?

Start setting time aside for these tasks in your calendar, addressing them before they become urgent (i.e., an emergency).

Quadrant Three

In quadrant three, lives "urgent but not important." These tasks should be done but don't necessarily need to be done by you.

This one can be hard to identify because we feel like we have the expertise needed to do everything. We know how the towels get sorted. We know the perfect way to load the dishwasher. But realistically, we don't have to be the ones to do these things. If you hand the reigns over, in all likelihood, you will still find towels in your bathroom, and the dishes will still get clean. It may not be the way you would do it, but that doesn't make it "the wrong way." Start delegating these tasks. I promise your brain will thank you for it.

Quadrant Four

Our final quadrant is "not urgent and not important." This quadrant contains tasks and activities that do not have to be done. Realistically I don't need to crochet a king-sized blanket. That is not an activity that needs to live on my to-do list.

Other activities that live in quadrant four typically include watching t.v., scrolling social media, and sorting through junk emails (just unsubscribe and mass delete).

Now, this isn't to say that you should have downtime. But it is essential to recognize the difference between "downtime" and "time wasters."

Make sure you give yourself time to binge-watch your favorite docuseries. And you deserve time to scroll TikTok. But make that time intentional, and make sure whatever you are doing, it relaxes and replenishes you.

Tips and Tricks for Success!

Limit the number of tasks per quadrant.

Don't go nuts and add dozens of tasks to each quadrant. Try to be realistic about what needs to be done and what you can do in a reasonable amount of time. You know you best, but I try to stick to no more than ten tasks per quadrant.

Create separate grids for different parts of your life (and have a brain dump notebook!)

Suppose you are like me and find a lot of crafty activities on your to-do list because you don't want to forget your latest and greatest inspiration - It may be worth it to have a list of your craft plans. Separate from your to-do list. That way, you have it handy whenever you want to pull out your sewing machine or whip out your Cricut. But realistically, these activities will cause more stress than happiness if they sit in your way of doing the dishes before dinner. (This tip can be applied to any brain dump list, house renovation ideas, books you want to read, or hobbies you want to learn (I recommend snowshoeing!).

I have a whole mini notebook dedicated to brain dumps. This lessens my likelihood of forgetting and all the stress that comes with that.

Grab your Grid!

Grab your free digital download of the Eisenhower Matrix here! (It comes with a printer-friendly version!)


My Favorite Notebooks for Glorious Brain Dumps:

The Paperblanks Lang's Fairy Books are freaking gorgeous

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