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Ep. 123 Prioritizing Using the Eisenhower Matrix

by Claudine Sweeney
April 7th 2022

Prioritizing can feel impossible when everything seems equally important. But what if everything is NOT equally important? Today we dive into a concept called the Eisenhower Matrix to help identify... More

This is episode 1 23 prioritizing using the Eisenhower Matrix. You're listening to the Rise up and Shine podcast with Claudine and Ashley as an empty nester and a mom with young kids. We have both shared very similar and very real struggles from chaos to coaches. We now help other women live an authentic and meaningful life. So tune in weekly for girl talk and tips on how you too can rise up and let your light shine bright. This is the rise up and Shine podcast. Welcome back listeners. I have a few questions for you. Do you find yourself busy, but don't feel like your work has a high impact. Do you have long term goals, but no time or energy to make progress on them? Have a hard time delegating and or saying no. Or do you find yourself running around putting out fires all day? Figuratively speaking, that is unless of course you're a firefighter and then they may be real, but I know his mom's, we can be putting out those fires all day long if so you might have a problem with prioritization.

I know I did and today we're going to dive deep into what our priorities are and how to make decisions based on the important and not important. The urgent and the not urgent. This is really good stuff. Yeah, I, my brain still tries to tell me that everything is important just as equally important. I should prioritize everything. Everything is a fire right? That needs to be put out, especially as women and moms and wives. We tend to have a lot on our plate because there's a lot of different hats that were wearing, right, A lot of different roles that we have to fill. A lot of responsibilities fall on us lovingly of course. But yeah, it's really important to prioritize and it could be a lot harder. You know, sometimes we just don't know where to start, especially if we are already in a place of overwhelmed, which happens very easily and often when I think you hit it on the head, it's like where to start. That's where I get overwhelmed. Like I have so many things like yesterday, I had a really long list of two DUIs and I was really kind of stuck in the morning and overwhelmed.

And then I literally had to put this into practice. I'm like, okay, what needs to be done? Like what's urgent and important and what's important, but I can put off, I can schedule it for later. So that, I mean we make so many choices every day. Right? So how do we know? How do we know? So that's what we're going to talk about today. How do you know? How do you know? Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one of the reasons why we want to talk about this is because it can produce a lot of trouble in our life, in our mental state, our emotional state, um, in our environment and even a lot of anxiety, you know, I mean, I will, I have experienced anxiety at times and I wasn't keeping up with things that should be a priority and letting go of things that really aren't as important or urgent. And so it's really this tool that we're going to share today is so helpful because sometimes, you know, I know I'm not the only one in this, but many of us are just like, just have someone tell me what to do and I'll do it right, tell me what's the most important thing I should get going today and great, I'll get it done.

But when you're left with all these things on your plate, I don't know where to start and we start saying these things like I have to do everything and that I have said personally in my household and you know to myself, not necessarily out loud, sometimes out loud perhaps, but when I'm thinking these things it causes me to feel resentment, frustration, bitterness, especially towards the other members of the household, where I feel like you should be helping me and I'm just grumbling and complaining in my heart. Um that doesn't produce much productivity, Trust me, another one is saying that there's too much to do when we focus on, there's too much to do, not enough time, how am I going to do all this? And we're just kind of cycling through those thoughts that's also going to cause us to feel overwhelmed and just stressed out and one more we tend to say is I'm supposed to do all this again with the prioritizing that all feels just as important and where do I start? Right, And so what ends up happening is we freeze and we don't get anything done.

I know for myself, especially if you experience anxiety on a certain level, it's like there's so much to do and then you just try and cope to number the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety and stress, but then nothing gets done, then you're not productive and then you feel even worse, right? You feel worse and you feel more shame like I'm failing, I'm not doing the things I should be doing right. Exactly. That's exactly what I think you described my whole early parenting years when my kids were little. That's exactly it. There was so much to do and we take on our own stuff, but we take on our spaces stuff, we take on our Children's stuff. And that schedules that you know, they they have busy schedules and then I love, my favorite was at eight p.m. The Oh mom, I need a poster board for tomorrow, like it's a little late now. I mean literally that happened more than once. It got to the point where I just bought them in 10 packs and then kept them put aside because that was like I have a project due tomorrow and I need a poster board and like it's a p. Yeah So we had to get creative and then I got wise. But as an empty nester, it's interesting that now I have more quote unquote time, obviously I don't have more quote unquote time.

I still have the same 24 hours. But I have less people whose demands, their schedules and their demands on my time are less. And then, so now for me, it's deciding what's important for me to do in my day. Yesterday, like I mentioned was really, I got really stressful and I was really frustrated and overwhelmed. I had a work commitment that I needed to accomplish. I needed um we I volunteered to have book club at my home last night, so I needed to print out the book list which includes research. I had committed to my husband and we had our son come over to clean out the garage, which was actually my idea and my schedule and that was actually my idea and I was the one that put it on the schedule, so I couldn't complain at that. But and we needed to go get groceries because we had no groceries and I was having people come over. So all of a sudden there was a long list and like you said, they all felt important and urgent. I was like, oh I need to do this all. So I had to sit myself down and actually use this tool, okay, what's the most important and really it was the business commitment I had, I needed to do that first and if worst came to worst and I didn't have my book list, I was just going to pull out my laptop at seven and we were going to decide together and we got groceries and the garage got done so, but I had to pull out this tool and it was really helpful.

So I'm really excited to share and we've touched about this before. We've talked about scheduling and prioritizing, but we're going to go a little deeper today. So if any of you out there have seen the Matrix movie, gonna share a little story here now, it was very, pretty simple, right? He had two options. You choose the red pill, you choose the blue pill. If life were so simple. If you heard our episode last week research shows that we have, we make about 35,000 decisions a day. Yeah, it's overwhelming, overwhelming. We can understand that, wow, I I get why deciding what's important or what I should tackle first or what I should prioritize could be so challenging, right? Because I mean, they're on a bigger scale. They're also on a smaller scale, these choices that we make day to day. But so the Matrix, this is a different kind of Matrix, the Eisenhower Matrix that is and this is such a powerful tool for helping prioritize these many, many, many decisions that we have on our list and to do, right, that we can easily be overwhelmed with, become extremely fatigued, stressed out and just kind of freeze up because sometimes, like we said, what do I do now?

Where do I start? And then we end up doing nothing. So this guy like Claudine was sharing when we get in that mental space, it is very hard for us to make that decision and to problem solve because our brain is like, oh I'm shutting down for the moment, I'm feeling a lot of feelings right now. So this tool is so handy to have that it will walk you through these, you know, specific steps on prioritizing the things that are that really should demand your time. It's a very complicated name for a very useful and practical system and President Eisenhower actually developed it and he was President and running a country. So since none of us have quite those same obligations, I think that if it was helpful for him it could be helpful for us and I love definitions, I like to know what we're talking about. So one of the first things to define is what is urgent because right, everything can feel urgent, but what is truly urgent are matters that require immediate action.

There are visible issues that pop up and demand our attention now and and often urgent situations come with clear consequences for not completing these tasks. They're unavoidable. But if you spend too much time putting out these fires, it can just create stress and result in burnout, right? And that's what we're talking about. We can get burned out when we're constantly putting out fires. So we have to determine what's truly urgent. What requires immediate action and there'll be a consequence if we don't attend to it. And things like that could be like for me I had this business project, I needed to finish that tomorrow. There would have been not a major life altering consequence. But for me, I want to be a woman of my word. And if I say I'm going to do something on a certain day, I want to do that. Another one is picking up our sick kids from school, right? You can't put that off. You can't let your sick child just stay in the school nurse's office all day. And another one is responding to important emails right there. Some of them are time based. Not all emails, most of them are not protected. Yes.

Unless you're meeting someone that night. It is not urgent if it's about making plans for a dinner next week. Yeah, not as urgent. Right? So urgent needs to take action now and there'll be consequences if you don't. And let's talk about important tasks. These are important because they contribute to our long term goals in our life values and they require planning and intentional thought and action. And when we focus on important matters, we can manage our time and our energy and our intention attention rather than mindlessly expanding these resources, which is so often I feel like I'm just doing, doing doing if you feel like you're on the hamster wheel, that's part of the situation. Like you're just going, going, going. But it's not intentional. And some of those things aren't important. Like yesterday I had to really figure out and honestly, I didn't finish my book either for book club that immediately got relegated to not important and not urgent even though book club was that night I'm like, you know what?

This isn't going to be a life altering thing if I don't finish the book. So that got deleted. So and that's what we're going to talk about this matrix and how we take care of the important and urgent and not urgent and not important right now chores around the household would be a great one that it's important, but not a set deadline, right? Not in my house, my house, They were urgent and important. Mine. I mean, I guess depending on the values, right? And what are your values? My values are I don't need a vacuum every day. You're talking about your chores. I was talking about my kids chores. I see your talk, I understand now. See I hear chores and I think Children well interesting. Learning something new. But it's also true. I get that that that makes sense with young kids because you're training them so I never thought of house work is my chore. Oh my gosh, do you enjoy housework? Some people, I don't I don't totally enjoy housework, but I do really enjoy a clean home.

So that's true. I looked at it as a task, not a chore. I figured my kids had chores and I had tasks. Yeah. Just learning something new about meaning I give it is very much a chore. But you know what, I think part of it when the kids are out of the house, if my husband takes them out to the park and I'm alone and I can crank my music and I can just solely focus on cleaning, then I enjoy it. Um and I can think of it more as though this is a nice task that I'm doing and it just feels so good. But I think going into it, especially with still having kids in the house. I know when I clean this it's a chore because five minutes later it's going to look exactly like that's true. That's true. They just come and undo everything that I just did. So probably different life circumstances interesting. So it can be urgent, not urgent, but yeah, yeah. Some people for their own mental well being, they do need to keep their house very clean and like disinfected clean all power to you. That's not me. But you go girl, let's go, let's describe the matrix here.

So we will both have resources on our website. So you have a visible worksheet to see and do this. Get up on your fridge anywhere. Your calendar somewhere you can see it. This is so, so helpful. Yes. It's a great reminder and you can find that either at mind over chaos dot com or Claudine Sweeney dot com on the resource page and it's there for yours for it's there for your taking. But it's a four box um little design, a little Matrix and Stephen Covey actually, popular Stephen Covey actually popularized this in his book, the seven habits of highly successful people. But the first square is important and urgent. So when something is important and urgent we do it. We just do it right. So yesterday with my business project, I needed to just do it. I couldn't think about it, delegated schedule it. Delete it. I just needed to do it. Which I did. And this is the one with the deadline. Had a deadline. Absolutely had a deadline.

And and if I didn't take immediate action, there would be a clear consequence. Right? I wouldn't be a woman of my word. So I it was urgent and important and I did it the next box. The next part of the Matrix is it's important but not urgent. So here we can schedule things. So things like exercise, right, those are important or important value to my life. Right? But if I don't walk today or go to the gym today, there's not a clear consequence but I should do it this week. So I'm going to schedule it because it's important to me. Um there's all kinds of things like that that are important but we don't need to do them today. Like buying a 10 pack of poster boards that became important but not urgent but now they were there so I didn't have to be rushed out the door with an urgent and important. Yeah. It really takes the pressure off you know because when we are bombarded with all these things we have to do ah and don't know where to start that. Just delegating these into each little quadrant of this matrix is it takes pressure off.

Okay I can put that off for a few more days. I don't have to respond. And even like what I was thinking of a text message when we get an email or a text message or some alert on our phone, our brain is constantly like what is it, who is it do I need to respond? And it can cause just it totally takes our attention away from whatever we're doing at the moment um and keeps us from being present. And a lot of times it can be from our families. Right? But recognizing that okay, I don't have to know right now. If there's not like a meeting later or an emergency then I can respond later. I can respond tonight when I put the kids down when I have some free time. I turned off all notifications on my phone a long time ago. I didn't, I don't have them on there. I don't want them on there. And I look at people with apple watches and they're constantly and I'm like, I have zero desire in that. In fact a family member wanted to buy me one for christmas. I'm like, please don't, please, no, thank you. This is for my mental health. I'm like because I know because you're right, our brains think that every text, every email, every notification is important, right and urgent.

Like we feel like I've got to respond to that immediately. We really don't usually not. There is no consequence if you reply to a text in five hours versus five minutes or five seconds as so many people are trained to do unless of course you're meeting someone for dinner and you're telling them you're running late. But other than that, so I don't have notifications on that's it. And this is really important too because if you want to protect again, going back to values right? So I've had this discussion with my husband our time at the dinner table electronics especially because once the kids get to an old enough age and they have their own phone, they're going to learn by what we model. Right? So my husband said, can we just have the phone put aside somewhere on the counter turned off because a lot of times to the school, an automated message will call, especially when we were getting all these covid stats right from the school they called daily and it was always around dinner time. So we would put the phone away and we would silence it. So that way we can be present. Because if we're, you know what we do around the dinner table, we play games.

And if we hear a phone go off, then we're going to be, who was that? And we're going to totally take our attention away from what we really value. Yeah, yeah. So good. So good. So again, so again for the important things that we want to do because they're based on our values and goals and we have to decide is it urgent and we need to do it or is it not urgent? And I could schedule it in fact earlier you asked me, well, um, I have to get an oil change and I said definitely important. But not urgent unless your car is smoking black smoke out of it or whatever happens when you don't have oil. I don't even know. But because my husband takes care of lucky, lucky me, look, I don't even know what happens if you don't have oil. I don't know. But it's important, but not urgent. So it can be scheduled for next week, but make sure to schedule it, Otherwise it won't happen and then it will become urgent when your car is smoking or not functioning. Absolutely. So actually, why don't you share the other two squares of the matrix with our listeners?

Right? So now the next quadrant is not important, but urgent. Now these are things that we can delegate, right? This is within your family, this is at work wherever. But being able to delegate. And that's one thing that I've been doing even with my kids because I'm like, hey, you live here, you can help out and things that are or not as important, but they're urgent. I can say, hey, I need you to do this. Like the dog has to go out to be right now and I can't, can you please do it? Exactly. Great example. Yeah. I live that one almost every day. But I'm trying to incorporate other people because it's okay to ask for help. Right? A lot of times what causes a lot of our overwhelming stress. We feel like we have to do everything and so we don't delegate and delegate is so healthy. Especially with getting your kids involved too. Do you know what I delegated when my kids were young, What chores? Sure, delegated a lot.

My kids, I have four of them. And I remember at one point going, yeah, I am not, I am not able to take care of all the, hey, hey, you can do this. Yeah, delegate delegate. I love it. I'm not great at it. I've learned, I've learned to be a good delegator, but it's not my natural, I think for a lot of women, Yes, we do. It's partly a control thing. Like, I mean I hear this from many women. If I want it done right, then I need to do it. We do that with the kids too. If I want the dishwasher loaded correctly, I need to do it. But what happens is we're taking on more and more because it can be a control issue and then we're just stressed out and then we're resentful because hey, you're not helping. But then when I try to, when they do try to help, they do it wrong. It's this inner battle that we have as women. So with the delegate right things that need to be done, but don't require your specific skills. Right? It can be a busy work if you think so. Some examples could be like, I like to write blog posts or posts on social media, right?

That's something, a lot of people pay people to do that. Especially if you have a business that's an online business. Um, scheduling. Being able to schedule things in the calendar. I'm starting to do that with my kids. You know, they have their own calendar with their activities and I'm teaching them, but also delegating at the same time, right track of their activities, husband. That's a great one for him to help with two and you're all sync up another one. like we said responding to some emails or a text message. So another good example that I can share with having kids at home if I'm driving and I have a message like if I'm meeting a specific person like we're actually on our way and then send a message. I will have my child in the car respond right hey this is really urgent right now because we're meeting them right now we're on our way. Can you send the text message? Otherwise I mean I could pull over. Yes but that will also be a little bit more stressful and their kids are old enough and they're not driving. Exactly.

Another one is meal prep. This is a big one. I've been asking the kids and my husband some ideas of hey what would you like you want to go ahead and fill in because I've been doing my monthly meal plan since the beginning of the year which has been fantastic. And I can say hey if you have an idea or suggestion for dinner, once you fill it in one of these days that's empty. And another thing that's great about that is when you have a picky eater then they feel like oh my dinner that I want gets to be scheduled in there and they can actually help you prep it when they get to a certain age to, they like to help make it absolutely they can do certain things and that's very, there's a lot of benefits that come to it that come along with it and for some reason I guess it's urgent that our families eat every night. I guess they want to eat a meal every single night ironically it's not as urgent to me for me and important actually. Yeah I like to eat often. That is true. And the last quadrant, the last box here is not important not urgent.

Take it off. Just take off your list. You know take the pressure off. We don't need it. They're distractions that can make you feel worse and they can be okay but only in moderation. So things like this are social media or binging tv shows or movies, video games and some women play video games. But while thinking like candy crush someone just got me onto word all last night. I've been playing it every day a little bit. It's hard. Oh I'm really good at it. I'll show you my tricks. I'm getting better because I'm like this is a good memory game. Good brain and it's actually you have to use a lot of that's why I decided to do it. But I was refusing for a little while. They're eating junk food. Not necessarily nourishing our bodies but taking the easy route right. We tend to eat a lot of junk just to check the box. But it's funny the things you just listed on the not important and not urgent are the things that I naturally want to do to fill time because in a way they're stress relievers for me, but like yesterday like I could have told myself that it was urgent, important that I finished reading that book I was having, but it really wasn't and I've trained myself enough and I have enough awareness to go, okay, this really isn't urgent, it's kind of important, but not that important, but naturally I am, you know, I am, I lean towards doing those really easy things like their time wasters because they're not important, not urgent, but they feel time so we can feel busy, right?

But we're not busy accomplishing anything that helps us achieve our goals and that are in line with our values. So really good way to um prioritize and to discern what is urgent, what's important and what's not. Yeah, and you know, one thing that I realized with you like using this tool other than it took a lot of pressure off of things that you know, I could put that off a little bit later and just really focus on a few key things that need to be done like right now or today. Um but it helps me be more intentional in my schedule and I think that's the whole idea, right? Because if we are intentional in our schedule are planning the things we have to do our responsibilities, then we're gonna be creative in ways to, you know incorporate more of the things that are important to us and that really matter and delegate things that we can delegate or just kind of take some of those time wasters and save them for another time even. And one thing that I've learned for myself if I have a busy day, um and I'm running from place to place and I know it's going to be a longer night, I know myself now that I will get run down and I'll be exhausted by seven and I'll want to go to bed and I'll be falling in and out of sleep and really spend as much time with my family.

And so I've learned that if I have a busy day, if I have even 30 minutes that I can give myself a lunch break, then that really changes the whole rest of my day because I can eat lunch, watch one of my favorite shows, just kind of zone out a little and recharge and then it gets me through the rest of the day because what I would do is more coffee, More coffee, but then it runs me down because I'm not stopping and being intentional, no, I need 30 minutes of just nothing so I can recharge and get moving through the rest of the day, definitely important, important. And I think about, you know, last week we talked about people pleasing and I think sometimes with people pleasing, we can get a lot of it feels like important and urgent, right? Because we're depending on someone else. So, first you have to figure out If when you're saying Yes to is people pleasing or not. So if you haven't heard that episode, check it out, episode 122. But once we decide what our values and what are important and urgent tasks are, it's important to prioritize so we can live, like you said, true to what's important to us and to live our authentic life and to rise up and shine.

I don't want to feel anxious and overwhelmed and stressed out over my schedule. I want to feel peaceful and confident and secure in my decisions and with my schedule. Schedule definitely. And I think about Ephesians 5, 15 in the ESPN, it says look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of your time. And I love that. Like what is the best use of my time And when we use this matrix, it will really become clear, right? And I know this was a lot of information, but again, check out our websites, Claudine at Claudine Sweeney dot com and Ashley's website at mind over chaos dot com. And there is this principle that will be a visual for you and again posted up somewhere somewhere where you're going to see it all the time and even if you take time out in the morning to kind of look ahead at your day and schedule your day, this will be an awesome tool to do that. So you know what things need to get done today. What things can I do later this week? It will really, really take a lot of that stress off of your shoulders and you'll feel good, you know, and you'll be much more productive.

Absolutely. And if you need more help in deciding what is urgent or not and what is important or not, Ashley and I as life coaches can help you do that. We can provide the support and the resources and the practical to make those decisions. So your life can be full of peace and joy and confidence, right, Claudine. And so if any of you are interested, I work specifically with moms and stay at home moms. Um and you can visit my website for a free discovery call where we can get in touch and talk about these things and Claudine at her website, you can also discover. You can also book a free discovery call with her at Claudine Sweeney dot com. So we thank you again for tuning in with us and uh please if this has helped you share it with a friend um and don't forget to hit that subscribe button and thank you again for tuning in with us every week, we appreciate it and we look forward to connecting with you have a great week. Alright everyone, thank you for joining in on our conversation today here on the rice.

I've been shined podcast. If you haven't already, please take a second to hit that subscribe button so you never miss an episode. And while you're at it share this episode with a friend who you know it can bless today if you want to visit us as well on our websites, you can catch Claudine over at Claudine Sweeney dot com and Ashley at mind over chaos dot com. Our links are in the description. We also have some free resources there for you as well. So remember ladies, no matter what you are facing in life, it is never too late to rise up and shine and live your best life. Mhm.

Ep. 123 Prioritizing Using the Eisenhower Matrix
Ep. 123 Prioritizing Using the Eisenhower Matrix
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