Scheduling Life with the Eisenhower Matrix

This year I implemented a prioritization tool that has proven very useful.  It is called the Eisenhower Matrix as it was either designed or made famous by US President Dwight Eisenhower. 

The purpose of the matrix is to determine which tasks you will do yourself, delegate, schedule or eliminate from your responsibility set.  This is done simply by putting items in one of four camps related to importance and urgency. 

I’ve found three elements imperative in using this matrix:

  1. Communicate when items are urgent versus important, both when you request that somebody executes them and when something is asked of you.
  2. Limit the items in each box to no more than eight.  This includes both professional and personal items.
  3. The items that are neither urgent nor important should be placed in the appropriate box only if their priority could be changed later when time frees up.  When anything is moved into the bottom right box, inform stakeholders that you have no intention of executing that deliverable so they can reframe their expectations, demonstrate why it should be in a different box or look for another path to have the task handled.

Get Back to Your Baseline, Reset

Improvement, achievement and success are great motivators. Inevitably, there are times when we face challenges.  Projects with longer time horizons lead to mounting challenges that become overwhelming. This can take place around both physical objectives and those of the intellectual nature.

An example for a marathoner is a nagging IT band or slight hamstring pull.  While we want to continue our training to accomplish our goal race time, doubling down when an injury persists is rarely the best solution and may create more serious setbacks.  Similarly, if you are working through a difficult project at work without the necessary support and a positive outcome seems nowhere in sight, you may tempted to soldier forward disregarding your well-being.  This approach could lead a stressful breaking point where the anxiety itself reduces your chance of success.  

In both cases, continued attempts at forward progress can be detrimental in the long-term.  Even creating an effective plan when experiencing heavy stress can be difficult. It is important to get back to your baseline, recover, reset mentally and recalculate your course. A short recovery period will allow you to develop a clear and unclouded path to success without adding greater risk to your project’s outcome.

Leadville Starts at 4:00 AM

Leadville starts at 4:00 AM

On December 31, 2018 I stated my New Year’s resolution aloud.  This is a rarity for me as I don’t normally believe in such arbitrary timelines to commit to things we should probably be doing anyway.  Resolutions such as “eat healthily” or “spend wisely” should be constant themes in life, not fleeting commitments once a year.  

My 2019 resolution was to prepare right for Leadville.  I had signed up to run the Leadville 100 Trail race in August 2019.  While finishing the race in under 30 hours seemed to be the goal on the surface, my resolution was to prepare flawlessly every single day.  Such preparation would allow me to perform to the best of my ability and never second guess my effort.  Vowing simply to finish the race misses the point and the hard work, difficult tradeoffs and commitment to excellence along the way. 

I changed my daily alarm to be titled “Leadville starts at 4:00 AM” as a daily reminder that I could do something that day to achieve my goal.

On August 17th, Leadville started at 4:00 AM and after running 100 miles, successfully finished for me at 8:33 AM August 18th.

Respecting your time

My father was never late, never, ever late.  Often arriving at parties 30 minutes early to the dismay of many hosts.  His lessons in unending punctuality have taught me to respect the time of other people.

During my childhood, my father religiously tracked time on his Seiko that, at the time defined fine watchmaking.  My father often told me that you didn’t even need a battery to power the timepiece. All this mechanical marvel needed was a quick shake in the morning and a day’s worth of wearing to make it run accurately.  I was amazed not only that it worked without batteries but that this small device adorned daily on my father’s wrist was responsible for his reputation for reliability. Accompanying the spartan look was the sound I remember most.

When he quickly jostled his wrist, the hollow bracelet made a jingle-jangle that would forever be associated with my father.

I hadn’t seen that watch in 20 years until I found it this past Tuesday.  After a few hours of cleaning, it is now back in a safe place and making that familiar jingle-jangle that will forever remind me to respect the time of others.


Appoint an Antagonist

From the archive:

Recently I enjoyed a working dinner with a brilliant entrepreneur. He has a young but growing business, is enjoying successes in the press and has no problem attracting great talent. He is not encountering most of the startup issues normally experienced during this phase. Instead he is facing a challenge normally reserved for more mature companies.

He asked me “how can I tell if my team is giving me the best feedback possible or simply acquiescing because they fear my reaction?

If this difficulty exists today, it will undoubtedly compound each day ahead. Worse yet, there is little this founder can do to mitigate this specific risk without direct attention. As the company continues to chalk up wins, he will earn more and more credibility in the eyes of the market, his board and the company’s employees. If it hasn’t already happened, there will be a day when he will be unintentionally surrounded by bobble-heads acquiescing to all recommendations coming from the C-Suite. The senior advisers will be afraid to publicly debate in the event that their POV is seen as dissension.

Read full article on Linked In Here.