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Can the Eisenhower Method help you better prioritize projects?

You've just scored a big project with a large array of deliverables and materials. It's the kind of work you've wanted to do in direct marketing for years. You feel great. Then you realize that you now have to complete a big project with a large array of deliverables and materials, involving multiple suppliers, ad agencies and who knows how many other stakeholders. You panic because you don't know how your team's going to handle this one.

Take it easy. As you begin outlining the project, consider dividing the project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Once that happens, you need to prioritize them. With this approach in mind, you should consider the Eisenhower Method or urgent/important matrix to establish how these tasks are handled in the short and long terms.

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Ike knew how to get things done. That's why he's a statue. 

Cause equals time

There is a quote attributed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1954, which he himself says came from some former college president: "I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." This principle helped him better organize his work, and enabled him to be a successful president by many metrics, according to Mind Tools. It also got us out of Korea, sort of.

Of course, in the real world, not everything can be as cleanly cut as saying something is strictly important or extremely urgent. For example, the issue of waking up and being on fire qualifies as being both important and urgent. On the other hand, finishing up that Sudoku puzzle is unimportant and lacks any sense of urgency.

The Eisenhower Method extrapolates the two factors into a priority matrix. These four quadrants apply when using it:

  1. Situations that are urgent and important, such as emergencies and last-minute changes from the ad agencies.
  2. Matters that are not urgent but are important, including working towards specific milestones and crafting a strategy.
  3. Events that are urgent but are unimportant, such as phone calls and emails from stakeholders.
  4. Circumstances that are neither important nor urgent, such as gawking at your competitor's work for non-research purposes or reading the latest sports spreads.

With great delegation comes greater efficiency
What makes the Eisenhower Method effective in project management is that it allows you to better plan your project based on priorities. Project management firm Sandglaz suggested you should spend the bulk of your time around aspects of your new campaign that are important but not urgent. If things get to the urgent and important stage, it's usually because something happened earlier that you didn't address until it became a problem. For example, you may have forgotten to plan out procurement for a key deliverable, such as a marketing stand. Suddenly, it's a week before you're supposed to deliver a working prototype of that stand and you're doing a headless chicken dance.

Similarly, you want to avoid aspects of the project that are neither important nor urgent. By focusing solely on areas of your work that are either important or urgent, you have a greater degree of control over even the greatest tasks. That'll make you more efficient and successful.