Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/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]

Let's play a game of Monopoly!

Choose the token that is the most applicable to your current level of activity for the duration of this chapter.

The racing car: The racing car is rushing to meet multiple deadlines. They are juggling a part-time job demanding 25 hours a week and full-time university classes demanding further hours. They are also attempting to also satisfy external interests. They have a high level of time pressure.

The boot: A classic "nine-to-five" character, work boots ready to go, working towards multiple deadlines. These deadlines are solely through their organisation without a worry of external commitments. They are also seeking to satisfy external interests. They have a medium level of time pressure.

The thimble: A classic homemaker or maybe having some time off, they are aiming to stay productive throughout the day and allocate free time for their interests. They have a low level of time pressure.

This chapter focuses on the Eisenhower matrix and how it can be used to improve time management. The issues of time management are discussed and this chapter considers the barriers and facilitators of effective time management behaviour. The Eisenhower matrix is introduced as an effective time management tool and the answer of how it can improve time management is discussed. Consistent with the book's theme of understanding and improving motivational lives, motivational theory is considered with integration of effective time management principles and the Eisenhower matrix. This chapter supports people in understanding and improving their motivational lives through the lens of time management behaviour and psychological science. Whether the racing car, the boot or the thimble is the most applicable, this chapter will have something for everyone!

Focus questions:

  • What are the issues involved with time management?
  • What is the Eisenhower matrix?
  • How can the Eisenhower matrix improve time management?
  • Which people or situations can benefit best from the Eisenhower matrix?
  • How can the Eisenhower matrix improve motivational lives?

The issue with time management[edit | edit source]

The issue with time management is that it involves bi-directional outcomes where effective use can foster positive outcomes and a lack thereof can foster poor outcomes (Macan, 1994). These bi-directional outcomes are rooted in time itself being a limited resource (Britton & Tesser, 1991) and generating time pressure (Bluedorn & Denhardt, 1988) for people. Claessens and colleagues (2007) explain that while some people manage this limited resource effectively, others result in coping with this limited resource poorly (Figure 1.). This issue introduces an important question of how to improve this skill. The question of how to improve this skill begins with a deeper understanding of what is causing people to struggle or succeed. This part of the issue is addressed by first investigating the barriers of effective time management behaviour and thereafter investigating the facilitators.

Figure 1. When time is a limited resource, it can reveal people's poor coping mechanisms

The barriers of effective time management behaviour[edit | edit source]

The common barriers are inclusive of procrastination and poor time management skills. Avoidance of procrastination and further development of time management skills are vital to advance to the facilitators.

Procrastination and time management skills[edit | edit source]

Hamzah and colleagues (2014) highlight that most importantly, procrastination should be avoided in the event of managing time. Kaushar (2013) further describes how lack of time management skills can foster procrastination. This has been represented in an abundance of research (e.g. Eerde, 2016; Boyraz & Ocak, 2016). One study reflects this idea thoroughly. Häfner and colleagues (2014) completed an experimental intervention study investigating the avoidance of procrastination through time management training in students. The findings confirmed that implementation of time management training programs for an experimental group decreased procrastination behaviour towards deadlines. The findings also confirmed that the control group showed no difference in procrastination behaviour towards deadlines. Inferences from this article bring light to how time management skills can be successfully developed through effective facilitators.

The facilitators of effective time management behaviour[edit | edit source]

The facilitators include further development of basic time management skills and being aware of the five principles of effective time management. An additional facilitator is using time management as a strategic resource.

Basic time management skills and principles[edit | edit source]

Basic time management skills involve a number of things inclusive of maintaining control over time (Lakein & Leake, 1973), following schedules and practicing prioritisation (Cobb et al., 1989). This was further supported by Bhosle and colleagues (2004) stating that more important tasks demand more attention. This research generates a loose construct of basic time management skills, however, an additional article conceptualises these further into five main time management principles. Diachkov (2020) suggests the five main principles include goal setting, ordering goals by importance and urgency, avoiding time absorbers, control over time resources and preparation of these goals to be accomplished. These five principles are shown in Table 1. Diachkov (2020) suggests that these principles are used as the basis of a strategy when it is required to make correct and well timed decisions.

Table 1.

The five main principles of effective time management

Principles of effective time management
1. Goal setting
2. Ordering goals by importance and urgency
3. Avoiding time absorbers
4. Control over time resources
5. Preparation of these goals to be accomplished

Time management as a strategic resource[edit | edit source]

Where use of time management is at a strategic level (Diachkov, 2020), an effective tool needs to be utilised. Although the usual "to-do list" springs to mind (Burke et al., 2013), a better approach could be the Eisenhower matrix where both facilitators and barriers of time management are strongly incorporated. This incorporation lies within the root of a further structured format where tasks are separated by importance and urgency. This is as opposed to the loosely constructed 'to-do' list and acts as one of the few available management tools to separate tasks upon priority (Jyothi & Parkavi, 2016).


Monopoly check-in

Whether you're a racing car, a boot or a thimble, it is important to think about your time pressure and how you're handling it. Do you feel like you just keep getting sent to jail? Or do you feel like you've just passed go and collected that $200?

Light_bulb_icon Tip: If you're a time management jailbird, it's important you consider an effective tool like the Eisenhower matrix to escape!

The Eisenhower matrix[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Format of the Eisenhower matrix

The act of differentiating tasks upon priority was first formulated by the 34th US President, Dwight Eiesenhower. Dwight believed "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important" (Bast, 2016). The Eisenhower matrix consists of four quadrants (Figure 2.) and include quadrants that are 'urgent and important', 'not urgent but important', 'urgent but not important' and 'not urgent and not important' (Dimitrovav & Mancheva-Ali, 2018). Bast (2016) explains how to use the Eisenhower matrix and details the four quadrants involved.

How to use the Eisenhower matrix[edit | edit source]

Quadrant 1 involves the tasks that are urgent and important where it is necessary to complete them immediately if possible. This quadrant expresses precautionary behaviour to avoid tasks becoming dangerously urgent. Examples include a fast approaching deadline or changing smoke detector batteries.

Quadrant 2 involves the tasks that are not urgent but important where planning to do them is necessary. Examples of this quadrant could be allocating time to study or learning a new skill. This is the quadrant people will allow the most time for.

Quadrant 3 involves the tasks that are urgent but not important, where delegating them to others, if possible, is an appropriate action. This includes help requests urging responses to emails or calls. If these requests cannot be delegated, time should be allocated to respond and complete them. This is a preventative measure of the persistence in delaying people while they are focused on higher priority tasks. This is the quadrant people will allow the least time for.

Quadrant 4 involves the tasks that are not urgent nor important and elimination of these tasks is necessary. These are classic time absorbers (Diachkov, 2020) inclusive of excessive consumption of TV or social media. These, although okay in the absence of time pressure, should be eliminated to allow time for the higher priority tasks.

How can the Eisenhower matrix be used to improve time management?[edit | edit source]

With the knowledge of how the Eisenhower matrix works (Bast, 2016), it is evident that it aligns successfully with the barriers (Hamzah et al., 2014; Kaushar, 2013) and facilitators (Lakein & Leake, 1973; Cobb et al., 1989; Bhosle et al., 2004) underpinning the five main principles of effective time management (Diachkov, 2020) This is displayed in Table 1.

Table 1.

The integration of the principles of time management and the Eisenhower matrix

The principles of time management The Eisenhower matrix
1. Goal setting The Eisenhower matrix generates a format that encourages the individuals who are using it to express goals
2. Ordering goals by importance and urgency The Eisenhower matrix orders goals by importance and urgency
3. Avoiding time absorbers The Eisenhower matrix includes a quadrant to identify and eliminate time absorbers
4. Control over time resources The structured format of the Eisenhower matrix allows the individual to structure their time and therefore harness more control than usual
5. Preparation of these goals to be accomplished Goal setting, ordering goals, avoiding time absorbers and harnessing control over time act as the preparation of these goals to be accomplished within the Eisenhower matrix

Which people and situations can benefit best from the Eisenhower matrix?[edit | edit source]

The research cited thus far has had a very specific focus where, most commonly, students' time management and their academic outcomes have been continually investigated. This revelation can be supported by a literature review of 32 empirical studies conducted by Claessens and colleagues (2007) in 1982 through to 2004. Claessens and colleagues (2007) questioned whether results for students could also be applicable in additional contexts such as an employee within an organisation. This has been addressed in less established agendas in comparison to the avenue of students' time management and academic outcomes. The remaining cited work has included time management strategy utilised by business people (Bluedorn & Denhardt, 1988, Diachkov, 2020), or time management strategy for a mix of time pressured contexts (Lakein & Leake, 1973). Collectively, these resources all use generalisable terms of any people experiencing time pressure, deadlines or when time is a limited resource (Britton & Tesser, 1991). A logical inference from this is that any individual could consider the Eisenhower matrix if they find themselves in the situation where they are experiencing these pressures. Where people in these situations of higher pressure do choose to adopt the Eisenhower matrix, further assistance and benefits are revealed in underlying motivational theory.


Monopoly check-in

Both the racing car and boot could benefit extremely well from the Eisenhower matrix. If you are a thimble, you could still reap the benefits of the Eisenhower matrix, however, alternative productivity tools could be more applicable for you!

Light_bulb_icon Tip: Check out external links for a comparison of 5 common productivity tools!

The Eisenhower matrix and improving motivational lives[edit | edit source]

Improving motivational lives, as it is addressed in multiple chapters within this book, can be achieved through various actions inclusive of using the Eisenhower matrix to manage time. In fact, Claessens and colleagues (2007) explained the justification of time management popularity and suggested it was favoured because of its powerful influence on an individual's positive outcomes. There is underlying motivational theory related to time management and positive motivational outcomes. These motivational theories that are both recurring in literature and strong in applicability and utility can be viewed from two perspectives. These perspectives include goal setting theory (Locke, 1996) and self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

Goal setting[edit | edit source]

Goal setting is integrated within the first, third, and fifth principles of time management (Diachkov, 2020) and align with the requests of the Eisenhower matrix (Bast, 2016). Beneath time management and the Eisenhower matrix lies goal setting theory that provides further guidance on setting effective goals within the matrix. These effective goals foster stronger direction and greater persistence which provides increased motivation (Bluedorn & Denhardt, 1988). Goal setting theory (Locke, 1996) began with the question of why some people achieved more than others and what differed between the goals these individuals were striving for. The answer to this question generated the main principles for an effective goal and includes goal difficulty, goal specificity and goal congruence.

Figure 3. Psychological needs must be satisfied to improve intrinsic motivation

Goal difficulty[edit | edit source]

The influence of goal difficulty on motivational and performance outcomes addresses the differences in level of effort dependent on level of difficulty (Atkinson, 1958, as cited by Cosier et al., 1992). This describes a moderately difficult goal fostering a higher amount of effort is exerted, while poorer efforts are relative to very easy or very hard goals. This notion is supported by a meta-analysis investigating goal difficulty effect sizes (d) that ranged between .52 and .82 proving a positive, linear function between higher goals and higher level of effort and performance (Latham & Locke, 1990 as cited by Latham & Locke 2002).

Goal specificity[edit | edit source]

The influence of specific, difficult goals was tested where the experimental setting either directed participants to do their best or directed participants with more specificity. It was found that specific, difficult goals recurrently showed higher performance than the direction of 'do your best' (Latham & Locke, 1990). The effect sizes (d) were also considered in the same respect as goal difficulty in Latham and Locke's (1990) meta-analysis and a range of .42 and .80 were identified. This is explanatory of how goal specificity reduces disparity in achievement by lowering ambiguity about expectations (Chah et al., 1989).

Goal concordance[edit | edit source]

Self-congruent goals direct individuals to choose goals that are desirable to themselves which can further influence motivation (Chirkov, 2004). Goals that are intriguing activate motivation in an intrinsic way (Hidi, 2000). When intrinsic motivation is involved, the likelihood of improved goal pursuit is higher and this ultimately increases goal attainment (Elliot & Sheldon, 1999). It is evident that goal pursuit and attainment rely on intrinsic motivation, however, intrinsic motivation relies on satisfied psychological needs. With the integration and clear utility of time management principles, the Eisenhower matrix and goal setting theory, recommendations can be made.


Recommendations for applicability

Light_bulb_icon Tip: The use of the Eisenhower matrix can be strengthened with goal setting theory. You should aim to structure goals in a way that is specific, moderate in difficulty and congruent with personal values. Thus, intrinsic motivation is increased and chances of goal attainment are significantly improved.

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. When innate psychological needs are satisfied, motivation is increased

Self-determination theory addresses the circumstance of decreased intrinsic motivation, known as amotivation, and is a common issue amongst people (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Deci and Ryan (2000) propose how this issue is especially prevalent as people grow older and their intrinsic motivation diminishes due to social demands and new responsibilities. The Eisenhower matrix addresses this by assisting to satisfy these innate psychological needs and ultimately increase intrinsic motivation that leads to long term well-being (Koestner & Milyavskaya, 2011).

Autonomy, competence and relatedness[edit | edit source]

Autonomy addresses how levels of motivation are influenced by the degree of how autonomous or controlled they are (Deci & Gagné, 2005). Autonomous behaviour surrounds the prerogative of choice, volition and the opportunity to arrange personal endeavours (Koestner & Milyavskaya, 2011). Autonomy further offers control over one's environment as opposed to the environment controlling the individual (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Competence addresses the need to be effective and proficient in one's environment through achieving desired outcomes, while relatedness demands close connections in daily interactions (Koestner & Milyavskaya, 2011). Satisfying these innate psychological needs (Figure 3.) can foster intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2000). When needs are satisfied and intrinsic motivation is increased, a positive association to well-being can be seen.

Psychological needs and well-being[edit | edit source]

A meta analysis of 17 studies was conducted and investigated whether basic psychological need satisfaction influenced well-being later in life from the self-determination perspective (Guerrien, 2020). Inclusion criteria communicated that articles must use self-determination theory, validated measures of basic psychological need satisfaction, relationships between needs and well-being used a statistical test and participants must be elderly. It was found that basic psychological need satisfaction is positively associated with multiple indicators of well-being and an effect size of .21 to .49 was identified. Evidently, satisfying psychological needs leads to better well-being in the long term. Table 2. displays how the Eisenhower matrix (Bast, 2016) could assist with this and is integrated with both self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) and the principles of time management (Diachkov, 2020).

Table 2.

The integration of self-determination theory, the Eisenhower matrix and principles of time management

Self-determination theory The Eisenhower matrix Principles of time management
Autonomy The Eisenhower matrix supports the prerogative of choice and volition by encouraging arrangement of personal endeavours. The matrix further offers control over one's environment through time management practices. Principle 4: Control over time resources
Competence The Eisenhower matrix supports competence by encouraging the formulation of a plan to be effective and proficient in one's environment to achieve desired outcomes. Principle 5: Preparation of these goals to be accomplished
Relatedness The Eisenhower matrix supports relatedness as the 'important but not urgent' quadrant welcomes scheduling for tasks or events that are important. As humans are innately predisposed to forming connections with others (Berscheid, 2003), it is very likely that scheduling time for personal relationships would fall in this category. Principle 2: Ordering goals by importance and urgency.


Monopoly check in

With all of this new knowledge of the Eisenhower matrix and time management, it looks like you will be passing go and collecting $200 dollars!

Light_bulb_icon Tip: Learn more about improving your motivational life by clicking on the 'book' link at the top left of the page

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Along the Monopoly board today, some key takeaways from this chapter are clear. The key takeaways are to think about the racing car, the boot and thimble and whether current time pressure requires the Eisenhower matrix or alternative strategies. When this issue of pressure is transforming people into time management jailbirds, it is time to consider using the Eisenhower matrix and applying what is now known about effective goal setting. This strategy will assist in satisfying important psychological needs and feeds into successful time management all while fostering long-term well-being (Or passing go time and time again, whichever is preferred!).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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Bhosle, M. J., Dutta, A. P., Kawatkar, A. A., & Sansgiry, S. S. (2004). Predictors of academic performance at two universities: The effects of academic progression. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 68(4), 103. https://doi.org/10.5688/aj6804103

Boyraz, S., & Ocak, G. (2016). Examination of the relation between academic procrastination and time management skills of undergraduate students in terms of some variables. Journal Of Education And Training Studies, 4(5), 76-84.https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v4i5.1313

Britton, B., & Tesser, A. (1991). Effects of time-management practices on college grades. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 83(3), 405-410.https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.83.3.405

Burke, A., Herlambang, E., & Shanahan, C. (2013). An exploratory study comparing goal-oriented mental imagery with daily to-do lists: Supporting college student success. Current Psychology, 33(1), 20-34. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-013-9193-2

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Chirkov, V., Demir, M., Elliot, A. J., Kim, Y., Ryan, R. M., Sheldon, K. M., Sun, Z., & Wu, C. (2004). Self-Concordance and subjective well-being in four cultures. Journal Of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35(2), 209-223.https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022103262245

Claessens, B., Roe, R., Rutte, C., & van Eerde, W. (2007). A review of the time management literature. Personnel Review, 36(2), 255-276. https://doi.org/10.1108/00483480710726136

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Diachkov, D. (2020). Strategic aspects of time management [Monograph]. MANAGEMENT OF THE 21ST CENTURY: GLOBALIZATION CHALLENGES,1(3), 245-251. https://www.pdaa.edu.ua/sites/default/files/academicdepartment/kafedra-menedzhmentu/mono2020sum3novaya1compressed.pdf

Dimitrova, V., & Mancheva-Ali, O. (2018). Planning and time management. International Conference KNOWLEDGE-BASED ORGANIZATION, 24(1), 283-288. https://doi.org/10.1515/kbo-2018-0045

Eerde, W. (2003). Procrastination at work and time management training. The Journal Of Psychology,137(5), 421-434. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980309600625

Elliot, A., & Sheldon, K. (1999). Goal striving, need satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 76(3), 482-497. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.76.3.482

Guerrien, A.,Tang, M., & Wang, D. (2020). A systematic review and meta‐analysis on basic psychological need satisfaction, motivation, and well‐being in later life: Contributions of self‐determination theory. PsyCh Journal, 9(1), 5–33. https://doi.org/10.1002/pchj.293

Hidi, S. (2000). An interest researcher's perspective: The effects of extrinsic and intrinsic factors on motivation. In C, Sansone & Harackiewicz (Eds.). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (pp. 309-339). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012619070-0/50033-7

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Koestner, R., & Milyavskaya, M. (2011). Psychological needs, motivation, and well-being: A test of self-determination theory across multiple domains. Personality And Individual Differences, 50(3), 387-391. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.10.029

Lakein, A., & Leake, P. (1973). How to get control of your time and your life. New York: New American Library. https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/7379515/How%20to%20Get%20Control%20of%20Your%20Time%20and%20Your%20Life-with-cover-page-v2.pdf?Expires=1634178130&Signature=GgeP9ujlYslZcpx~28apcgyScgvmM7yl5OPAKKKBzgMxYNjxjQNXbKrC5WMGIG8qM2hG6bC-pT74c4RuDGtAk5qETyOsnTprVGj7mw3CcbQGbrjnAnRfdCO4ZpiT~DlKNdb72dqDjYgip~AowzPU4Se76osgbC~Kw4EVkOAVRBzUyJlgR3UYI5JSaZg3yDdTOZxNNBKqosP909OG-dU86MyR7FcstJ34oSUaObWQqArep4H5wohkoHQQXcpNAWiwK~siWZWcmgC6WjQjfEjBs2CVpsmj9q0Z-o1jTNH1BrCmjIr6JPD2mny60B5jb-gg-Xk9iQtm9UqDe4k5LGqUzw__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA

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Locke, E. (1996). Motivation through conscious goal setting. Applied And Preventive Psychology, 5(2), 117-124. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0962-1849(96)80005-9

Macan, T. (1994). Time management: Test of a process model. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 79(3), 381-391. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.79.3.381

External links[edit | edit source]