Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Eisenhower matrix and time management

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Eisenhower matrix and time management:
What is the Eisenhower matrix and how can it be used to improve time management?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Time management is becoming an ever increasing necessity for successful performance. Work and study tasks have become more urgent with stricter deadlines. It's becoming more important to complete tasks effectively and on time. The Eisenhower matrix is an effective resource that can be used to improve time management (Bast, 2016). By integrating time management with motivation theory we can better understand how it is used to work toward and achieve our goals. Proper utilization of time management techniques such as the Eisenhower matrix can be used by anyone to improve productivity and avoid procrastination.

Focus questions:

  • What is the Eisenhower Matrix and how can it improve time management?
  • What are the effects of good time management?
  • What is the underlying theory behind the Eisenhower Matrix and time management?

The Eisenhower matrix[edit | edit source]

The Eisenhower matrix is a time management tool used to organise tasks based on their urgency and importance. It can be used effectively to improve time management and productivity (Makouet, et al, 2019). It was originally devised by the 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower. He is known for making the statement that he has "two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." (Makouet, et al, 2019, p. 14) Urgent problems are problems with fast approaching deadlines and require immediate attention in order to be completed. Important tasks are those that contribute to our goals, and therefore must ideally be completed on time and in full. The Eisenhower matrix prioritises tasks into four groups based on these two characteristics (see Figure 1) (Bast, 2016; Kirillov, et al 2015; Makouet, et al, 2019).

Figure 1. Representation of the Eisenhower matrix.
  1. Urgent and important: these tasks are given the highest priority and should be completed as soon as possible. Examples include upcoming school assessments, emergencies such as fire, or unexpected car repairs. It’s usually best to avoid having tasks reach this stage if possible. This can be done by planning ahead. The Eisenhower matrix can be used to help with this.
  2. Important but Not Urgent: these tasks should be scheduled to be done when there is time to do so, in order to ideally have them done, or mostly done, before they become urgent. It can be helpful to schedule these tasks in calendars, monthly planners, or diaries to keep track of them (Bast, 2016). Examples of these types of tasks could be later stage assessment items, maintenance work, personal paperwork, or even more creative aspirations such as writing a book, or creating music. These tasks often take a long time and potentially multiple sessions to complete. However, this is not always the case and if one of these tasks can be completed soon without getting in the way of urgent tasks, then it should.
  3. Urgent, but not important: these tasks often come from other people. A task belonging to this category could be responding to messages or requests from other people. It’s best to avoid letting these tasks interfere with important ones, and therefore should be delegated or rescheduled if possible. If this can't be done than it may be necessary to evaluate if time should be spent on this task. These tasks should either be made less frequent in the future.
  4. Not urgent and not important: Actions such as procrastination or destructive behaviour. These tasks should be ignored or eliminated.      

Time management in research[edit | edit source]

Time management can be a very useful skill. Research has shown that a good time management can improve work productivity and commitment, as well as reducing work related stress and anxiety.

A study conducted by Pertti, & Zafarullah titled “Effect of Time Management on the Job Satisfaction and Motivation of Teacher Educators: A Narrative Analysis” found that when teachers where given time management training they were able to perform their roles as teachers more effectively. Careful planning, better preparation, and good prioritisation of tasks has been shown to lead to better work performance. Within this study use of the Eisenhower time management matrix was shown to help prioritise tasks more effectively and led to better work performance (Pertti, & Zafarullah, 2017). Another study examined the relationship television watching and time management had with achievement motivation of primary school students. In this study time management correlated positively with achievement motivation (Mulatu, 2020).

Research has also explored the relationship between time management and workplace stress.  A study was conducted to examine how time management of nursing students related to anxiety. These nursing students completed a time management questionnaire, a trait anxiety inventory, and an academic motivation scale. This study found that there was a negative correlation between time management scores and anxiety scores. As well as this, there was a positive correlation between time management and academic motivation scores (Ahmadi, et al, 2017).

When looking at specific examples it is easy to see the beneficial effects of time management on work performance and anxiety. However, a broader look at time management research gives a similar, yet less conclusive, view on the benefits of time management. A literature review conducted in 2007 titled “A review of the time management literature” reviewed 32 studies and concluded that good time management correlated positively with perceived control and job satisfaction and correlated negatively with work related stress. However, it was also stated in this study that research around time management was still ill-defined and required further clarification on definitions and methodology (Claessens, et al, 2007). A more recent study done in 2017 compiled many different questionnaire and time management training experiments. This study also presents an unclear conclusion on the effects of time management. In general, this study pointed towards time management correlating positively with productivity and negatively with stress, however its effect on performance differed depending on how performance results were measured (Aeon, & Aguinis, 2017).  Despite this variance in results and definitions most research supports the idea that good time management leads to better work performance and lower anxiety. The Eisenhower matrix is one method that can be used to achieve both these outcomes.

Time management and motivation theory[edit | edit source]

Within motivation theory time management is viewed as a motivational process. The most commonly used definition of time management within psychological motivation theory comes from Lakein’s work in 1973. He stated that time management was the process of assessing one's goals and prioritising tasks in order to achieve those goals effectively (Lakein 1973, as cited in Claessens, et al, 2007). Listed below are a few different theories that can be used to conceptualise the effects of time management.

Attribution theory[edit | edit source]

This theory states that people will be motivated in a certain area based on previously attributed success and failure and predicts future behaviour based on these past outcomes (Anderman, 2020). This theory helps to explain how good time management leads to higher work motivation. As stated in the previous section, time management is positively correlated with work performance and negatively correlated with stress. These outcomes lead to positive attributions of work, leading to higher motivation in the future.

Herzberg’s dual factors model[edit | edit source]

This is a bit more of an unorthodox theory and is not used as much as other motivation theories anymore. However, Herzberg’s 1959 work still holds relevance when discussing time management. This theory bases job satisfaction on two different factors, being hygiene and motivation. Hygiene relates to all the outside environmental factors affecting job performance, such as support from others and monetary incentives. Motivation in this theory relates to the internal drives, being goal setting and engagement (Shields, & Smith, 2013). Time management can be conceptualised as the internal motivation factor of job satisfaction. This is because time management relates to the aspects of work that can be directly controlled by the individual, such as scheduling and task prioritisation to effectively achieve set goals (Hamzah, et al, 2014).

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

This theory probably relates best to time management as it addresses concepts very strongly related to it.  Self-determination theory is focused on the promotion of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation to do a task without the need of outside incentives such as money. This is because the tasks are motivating in themselves. Three attributes have been outlined under self-determination theory that promote intrinsic motivation. These are one's perceived competence, relatedness, and autonomy over a task (Anderman, 2020). This theory is similar to Herzberg’s model in that it addresses the internal aspects of individual motivation, however self-determination theory addresses these concepts in greater detail examining how motivated behaviour is directed (Deci, & Gagné, 2005). In self-determination theory, time management techniques such as the Eisenhower matrix improve perceived competence over a task by improving work performance. Time management techniques also allow for greater autonomy as they heip with task control and planning (Pertti, & Zafarullah, 2017).  Tasks and deadlines are often set for students and workers, leading to less control of task scheduling and less autonomy. For this reason, task prioritisation and contingency planning are very important for maintaining work motivation (Adams & Blair, 2019; Brodsky, et al, 2018).

Utilisation of the Eisenhower matrix[edit | edit source]

Effective time management Is very important in achieving goals. The Eisenhower matrix is one way in which time management can be improved. It can be used to prioritise tasks more effectively. Procrastination is a very big problem that negatively impacts a lot of peoples performance (Hussain, et al, 2017). The Eisenhower matrix can be used to help avoid procrastination, as it will help to understand which tasks are important and which ones should be ignored. Organising important tasks and scheduling times for those tasks to be completed will prevent them from becoming urgent.

The Eisenhower matrix is just one of many strategies that can be used to improve time management. An example of another strategy is the POSEC method; which stands for Prioritising, Organising, Streamlining, Economising and Contributing. (Čiarnienė, & Vienažindienė, 2014). A second example is the self-management technique which involves planning tasks before setting long term goals and taking advantage of the optimal time to complete these tasks (Kirillov, et al 2015). However, the Eisenhower matrix has been shown to be an effective time management strategy to improve performance (Makouet, et al, 2019) and can be applied to many fields such as education or the workforce.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The Eisenhower matrix can be a very effective tool in improving time management thereby improving performance (Bast, 2016; Makouet, et al, 2019). Utilising a good understanding of underlying motivation theory helps to reach a greater understanding of this effect. People are more likely to stay motivated in a field when they are able to attribute success and the potential for high competence in that area. Autonomy is also a crucial part in this motivation (Anderman, 2020). Time management is intrinsically related to these concepts. It involves the planning and structuring of time, to help in goal achievement. Time management can be very effective, promoting motivation through reducing anxiety over work as well as increasing perceived control. This leads to greater task performance (Aeon, & Aguinis, 2017; Ahmadi, et al, 2017; Mulatu, 2020). However, it's important to examine ways in which motivation theory can be used to improve time management, such as in institutions like school and work. Despite this, the Eisenhower matrix can be one of many effective time management strategies used to improve time management and task performance.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Adams, R. V., & Blair, E. (2019). Impact of time management behaviors on undergraduate engineering students’ performance. SAGE Open, 9(1), 1-11.

Aeon, B., & Aguinis, H. (2017). It’s about time: New perspectives and insights on time management. Academy of management perspectives, 31(4), 309-330.

Ahmadi, F., Ghiasvand, A. M., Hosseini, M., Naderi, M., & Tafreshi, M. Z., (2017). Relationship between time management skills and anxiety and academic motivation of nursing students in Tehran. Electronic physician, 9(1), 3678–3684.

Anderman, E. M. (2020). Achievement motivation theory: Balancing precision and utility. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 61, 1-7.

Bast, F. (2016). Crux of time management for students. Resonance, 21(1), 71-88.

Brodsky, A., DeVoe, S. E., Parke, M. R., Tangirala, S., & Weinhardt, J. M. (2018). When daily planning improves employee performance: The importance of planning type, engagement, and interruptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(3), 300.

Čiarnienė, R., & Vienažindienė, M. (2014). The conceptual model of time management. Mediterranean journal of social sciences, 1, 42-48.

Claessens, B. J., Roe, R. A., Rutte, C. G., & Van Eerde, W. (2007). A review of the time management literature. Personnel review, 36(2), 255-276.

Deci, E., Gagné, M. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 331–362.

Hamzah, A., Joarder, M., & Lucky, E. (2014). Time Management, External Motivation, and Students’ Academic Performance: Evidence from a Malaysian Public University. Asian Social Science, 10(13), 55-63.

Hussain, M., Wolters, C. A., Won, S. (2017). Examining the relations of time management and procrastination within a model of self-regulated learning. Metacognition Learning, 12(3), 381-399.

Kirillov, A. V., Makushkin, S. A., Tanatova, D. K., & Vinichenko, M. V. (2015). Theory and practice of time-management in education. Asian Social Science, 11(19), 193-204.

Makouet, I., Mfondoum, A., Mfondoum, M., Tchindjang, M., & Valery, J. (2019). Eisenhower matrix * Saaty AHP = Strong actions prioritization? Theoretical literature and lessons drawn from empirical evidences. Iaetsd Journal For Advanced Research In Applied Sciences 6(2), 13-27.

Mulatu, K. K. (2020). Watching Television Films and Time management skill of students as predictors of achievement Motivation of primary school students: the case of Woldia Town. Journal of the Social Sciences, 48(3), 2226-2243.

Shields, J., Smith, D. (2013). Factors Related to Social Service Workers' Job Satisfaction: Revisiting Herzberg's Motivation to Work. Administration in social work, 37(2), 189-198.

Pertti, V., & Zafarullah, S., (2017). Effect of time management on the job satisfaction and motivation of teacher educators: A narrative analysis. International Journal of Higher Education 6(2), 212-224.

External links[edit | edit source]