The Eisenhower Matrix, For Students

Being a college student isn’t easy. However, the Eisenhower Matrix can help.

We rush to classes, complete multiple homework assignments per night, and fight to stay awake in lectures the next morning. When we allow ourselves the privilege of spending time with friends, thoughts of important responsibilities leave us feeling guilty.

It can be overwhelming.

This is why so many students across the nation battle with stress. An mtvU survey conducted in 2008 found that 80% of college students feel stress daily. What’s more, 13 percent had been diagnosed with mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.   

One great method of coping with that, “too much to do, too little time” feeling is adopting a method of time management that facilitates the decision of how you should be spending your time.

Meet The Eisenhower Matrix

This is where the Eisenhower Matrix comes into play. As denoted by the name, President Eisenhower developed this method of time management. This is how he balanced his responsibilities as the 34th president of the United States, a 5-star general, and the 1st Supreme Commander of NATO.

To keep himself focused and decide where to allocate his time and resources, Eisenhower divided his priorities into four quadrants.

While Eisenhower used this method to manage his presidential duties, it can be used by anyone, including students. Try dividing your responsibilities, both personal and academic, into the 4 quadrants.

The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix

Critical and “Do Now” Tasks

These tasks are of high importance, and demand your immediate attention.

Examples include:

  • Study for tomorrow’s exam
  • Buying your best friend a birthday present for his/her party this week
  • Completing an online quiz due tonight at 5:00 PM

Critical, but Do Later

These are tasks that contribute to more long-term goals and advancement.

Examples include:

  • Getting on a regular training schedule to make the club tennis team
  • Choosing a topic for your end-of semester research paper
  • Running for an elected position in your club, sorority, or religious group

Not Critical, but Do Now

Tasks like these can be confusing to deal with. The idea behind these tasks is that they should be delegated to other people; they are menial tasks that do not demand the skills you possess, and should be passed on. However, as students, we don’t have assistants.

The best thing to do with these tasks is deal with them when you don’t have the mental energy to work on things that are more important. This saves your best self for more critical work.

Examples include:

  • Scheduling a dental cleaning
  • Taking your formal dress to the dry cleaner
  • Sending a quick thank-you email to your professor who just gave a test review session.

Not Critical, Do Later

You may be thinking, “but tasks in this quadrant will never get done”. This is exactly the point. By identifying which tasks do not need to be done, you free up more time for tasks and activities that mean more to you.

Examples include:

  • Going to an acquaintance’s improv performance
  • Watching 5 episodes of New Girl
  • Color coding your closet

The Result:

By organizing your priorities in a matrix like this, you can rest assured that you’re focused on the right things, whether trying out for a club sports team, planning your best friend’s birthday party, or studying for a test.

If you’re interested in this method of prioritization, check out Priority Matrix! This free app for iPhone and Android allows you to use the Eisenhower Matrix to manage your responsibilities.

Pro-tip: One thing that President Eisenhower didn’t realize is that not every task is simple and clear-cut. A task like “study for Chemistry” might look easy enough, when in reality you need to know what to study first or in what order you should go through the material.

We decided that in Priority Matrix, each task should have its own “matrix”. This allows you to keep track of each action item that needs to be done.

This way, you won’t forget each step and will successfully complete the entire task!

The Eisenhower Box: Quadrant 3, Not Critical but Urgent

President Dwight Eisenhower brought many ideas to the country after a trying time in U.S. history. One such idea was his brilliant innovation for managing time, dubbed the Eisenhower Box. Also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, or Eisenhower Method, this method divides and prioritizes tasks that a person needs to do based on whether they are critical and/or urgent. The goal is to increase productivity by prioritizing tasks.

How does The Eisenhower Box work?

Imagine a square or box divided into four equally sized quadrants. Each of the four Eisenhower Box categories is labeled according to the system:

Critical and Urgent,

Critical but not Urgent

Not Critical but Urgent

Not Critical and not Urgent

The Eisenhower Box
The Eisenhower Box


For a more detailed outline of these four categories, see this post.

Here, we will focus on Quadrant 3 – Not Critical but Urgent. Many proponents and followers of this method struggle to understand how a task that is Not Critical can be considered urgent.

Consider the following example: you have a meeting this afternoon that needs to be cancelled. It must be cancelled before everybody starts making their way to the conference room. However, if your team showed up to find an empty room, it wouldn’t be the end of the world (or your company).

However, if you are an executive, it is not a wise use of your time to have to disrupt your day and cancel the meeting. You should be focusing on tasks that demand your expertise, the kind of tasks that fall under Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2.

While it is essential that the task gets done, it is not essential that you be the one to do it.

Tasks like cancelling a meeting should ideally be delegated to someone else on your staff, such as your assistant or receptionist.

Here are a few more examples of tasks that fit into the Not Critical but Urgent quadrant:

  • A phone call to a prospective customer, such as to follow up on a possible sale that could occur this week
  • Writing a thank you card to an important client that you met with yesterday
  • Professional conference registration forms that are due tomorrow

Let’s review the common themes between these tasks:

  1. Their Urgency – the need for them to be completed immediately in order to stay relevant, and
  2. Their lack of demand for the skill set that you possess, which is why your time is more efficiently used by delegating them to someone further down the line.

After all, the Eisenhower method of time management is about maximizing your hours to ensure you’re spending your time and energy on the right things.

The Eisenhower matrix is more relevant to your life than you may think. We often don’t take the time to analyze the sequence of how we get tasks done. Think about how much time you could save by using this method of prioritizing your busy schedule.

In Eisenhower’s era, following the principles he developed needed to be done manually. Fortunately, that’s not the case anymore, with the advent of apps that are available to facilitate this.

Consider Priority Matrix by Appfluence.

The app is built upon the Eisenhower method of time management, so not only can you prioritize your tasks into quadrants, just like Eisenhower, but also, you can delegate those not-so-Critical tasks to others!

Spend time on what really needs to be done. Check it out, and watch your productivity soar.

Everything You Need to Know About the “Eisenhower Method”

Dwight D. Eisenhower achieved many great things in his lifetime, including his development of the Eisenhower Method of time management.

Along with becoming the 34th President of the United States (twice elected), he held positions such as five-star general, chief commander of the European Allied Forces during WWII, and the first Supreme Commander of NATO.

Eisenhower reached such great heights in large part due to the fact that he was a rational and organized decision maker with an eye for strategy.

This eye for strategy led him to establish the decision matrix we now refer to as the Eisenhower Matrix (also known as the Eisenhower Method or the Eisenhower Box). All three terms describe the same rigorous approach Eisenhower took when allocating the urgency and importance of tasks.

How Does the Eisenhower Method Work?

The Eisenhower Method consists of four separate quadrants:

  • Critical and Urgent tasks: should be done as soon as possible, like hiring a manager that left your company.
  • Critical, but not urgent tasks: Not urgent, but great ideas or high-importance items that are reserved for later. This could be something like opening a new location.
  • Urgent, but not critical tasks: Jobs that can be outsourced, like filling out forms for your new health insurance plan, due tomorrow.
  • Neither urgent nor critical tasks: Jobs that can be eliminated from your list of things to do.
Eisenhower Method
The Eisenhower Method

However, Eisenhower got one thing wrong.

Each project (ie. opening a new branch or eliminating weak employees) should ideally have its OWN matrix of individual tasks that need to be done to bring it to completion. By following this philosophy, each project in itself can be streamlined and carried out in a logical process.

Be aware that by limiting “critical and urgent” tasks to as few as possible, you’ll streamline your day. Tasks in this quadrant are fires to be fought. Once you’ve put them out, you can focus on what really matters.

“Critical and Urgent” Tasks & Projects

The Eisenhower matrix strategy optimizes organization and completion of both short term tasks and long term projects.

Short term tasks that should be assigned to the “critical and urgent” quadrant include:

  • Reports to a superior that need to be completed and handed in before lunch
  • Repair of malfunctioning business security equipment

Long term “critical and urgent” projects might involve:

  • Hiring a replacement for the manager who quit your company last week.
  • Eliminating employees who are not contributing to the growth of your business.

“Not Urgent but Critical” Short and Long Term Tasks & Projects

These are tasks that do not present hard deadlines but will advance your goals, both professionally and personally. For example,

  • Increasing your professional value, or
  • Brainstorming with colleagues about new features for your product

A “Not Urgent but Critical” long term task, like improving your professional value, should be a project in itself, as it will contain multiple tasks, like taking a language course or meeting with a mentor.

“Urgent and not Critical”

Tasks assigned to quadrant three of the Eisenhower matrix may be answering emails and phone calls, some meetings, and anything else that can be safely delegated without interfering with the matrix. Read more about this here .

“Not Urgent and Not Critical”

Quadrant four of the Eisenhower Matrix is reserved for things like reading an interesting article you found on the internet, or reaching out to an old friend to wish them happy birthday. If something is in this quadrant for more than two weeks, delete it. This means it didn’t garner your attention, and shouldn’t be taking up space.

Items that are not urgent and not critical can sit on the back burner forever without getting scorched.

Putting Everything Together

Now that you know more about what would go in each quadrant, let’s go through a complete example of a potential project using the Eisenhower Method!

Project: Creating a Company Webpage

Critican and Urgent:

  1. Purchase the domain.
  • If you want to create this company webpage, you need to focus on purchasing a domain name and choosing a good web host.

Critical, but Not Urgent:

  1. Content
    • Once you have the website up, you are going to need content for it… This vital to the website’s success, but comes second to configuring your domain. Creating valuable content is also a longer-term endeavor that will add value, as opposed to purchasing the domain, which must be done now.
Urgent, but not critical tasks
  1. Setting up a meeting with your staff to get input on the website.
  2. Hiring someone to manage the website
    • We could probably manage it, but what about finding somebody who has more experience to make the website bigger and better? This job should be outsourced to your HR team.
Neither urgent nor critical tasks
  1. Compiling a folder of meme’s that you will post at the end of each article
  • By identifying specific tasks that you should not spend time on, you can free up more time and resources for higher-impact items.


When organizing your time based on the Eisenhower method, keep in mind, as you are a busy person, you probably have multiple assignments that need to be done.

Would you take a piece of bread and put tuna, jelly, mustard, butter, and mayo on it?

I sure hope not; none of them go together.

Same thing goes with all of your projects. If you “mish mash” two or more projects that you have to do, you are to create clutter, and you definitely will not be as successful as Eisenhower.

Therefore, we encourage you to create a separate Eisenhower matrix for each project that you are responsible for. This will help you tackle each project more effectively by making sure you focus on the most important piece of each one.

How the Eisenhower Method Can Save You Time

According to Brian Tracy, “The true measure of the value of any business leader and manager is performance.” Your business depends on lightning-fast operations that quickly and effectively communicate necessary information to the right person. It is easy to get bogged down in menial tasks, such as routine emails and callbacks that eat away at your time. However, great workers take charge of their time and make important events a priority.

See dramatic improvements in productivity when you learn how to identify the urgency and importance of your tasks. The Eisenhower method saves you time and makes each move you make more effective. This can save you hours per week of valuable time.

Improve Productivity with the Eisenhower Method

Developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Method is a simple way of prioritizing the tasks that need to get done. Eisenhower had four categories and assigned the tasks that had to get completed accordingly. The four categories in the Eisenhower Method, or Eisenhower Matrix, are:

  • Critical and Urgent
  • Critical, but not Urgent
  • Not critical but Urgent
  • Not critical and not Urgent

The first two categories are important and need to be addressed personally as they require your specific level of expertise. The third category, Not Critical but Urgent, can and should be delegated to another person to handle. The final category, Not Critical and not Urgent, could be slated for when you have free time. The Eisenhower Method helps the busy manager filter tasks and streamline daily tasks and project management needs. It also helps to identify and remove time-wasting activities, saving time for managers and business leaders.

Your Time Management Solution

Leaders need to have a bird’s eye view of the operations and lead a team toward desired outcomes. It is far too easy for the average manager to get bogged down with routine tasks and lengthy communications that beg to be abbreviated. Do project updates and follow-up questions from team members become repetitive? Are you stuck spending your valuable time holding the team accountable and reminding them of tasks and deadlines? You have better things to do. Improve your workflow and the workflow for those on your team, and be a leader for your organization.

Consider how much you could impact your performance when you reduce time spent on necessary but routine tasks. When you implement a system that uses the fundamental organization concepts discussed in the Eisenhower Method, you will be astounded by your increased performance and those of your team. You could use that extra time to address necessary but back-shelved projects, revamp organizational process, or improve the quality of the project itself — make the completed project the best it can be and not just “good enough.”

What can Priority Matrix do?

The Priority Matrix app allows your team to communicate faster and reduces unnecessary interruptions by adhering to the principles of the Eisenhower Matrix. This project management tool allows team members to know exactly what tasks need to be done, organize their personal responsibilities as they change, and provides any project updates at the touch of a button. Collaborate with your team and keep everyone in the loop.

Priority Matrix can save you 45 minutes per day. How so?

  • Keep your to-do list organized – Save 15 minutes by dragging and dropping tasks, and quickly marking items as done, rather than rewriting your list.
  • Use the Priority Matrix in-app chat and stop switching between email and work – Save 10 minutes
  • Keep files in one place when you stop navigating between Excel, calendar, email, and company chat- Save 5 minutes
  • Use one-click delegation rather than writing emails to explain a new assignment- Save 10 minutes
  • Sync with your calendar instead of duplicating items or writing them in- Save 5 minutes

45 minutes per day equates to 225 minutes per week, 900 minutes per month, and 180 hours per year. 22.5 8-hour work days per year are saved with optimizing your time with Priority Matrix.

What more could you accomplish with over 3 work weeks of extra time?

Save Time in Priority Matrix by:

  • Dragging and dropping emails from Outlook and Apple mail, to keep track of important conversations
  • Keeping both short term and long term projects organized so you know where to start at the beginning of each day
  • Dragging and dropping of tasks between quadrants and projects (no more re-writing your to-do list!)

Save time and improve your performance. Stand out and get your team noticed with Priority Matrix.