How a BOX can help you make the best use of your time TODAY and EVERY day!

Written by  //  January 13, 2015  //  Daily Juice  //  No comments

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Today! I’m going to show you a BOX that can help you save time AND grow your biz! Sounds odd, yes? But read on. It’s clever!

Eisenhower Box 

So this little tool is perfect for you if you have lots of ideas of things you want to do with your business but find yourself sooo busy in the day-to-day to that you never really get time to DO them! Sound familiar?! Goodness – I used to drive myself nuts with this! I had so much I wanted to do but days, weeks and months would pass and they’d stay on my todo list waiting for the moment when I wasn’t so busy. Of course that time never came, but the idea of using this box did instead! Hurrah!  I’ll tell you all about it shortly, but it worked like magic for me and maybe it will for you TOO! how to use an Eisenhower Box to make the best use of your time

The Eisenhower Box to make the best use of your time

So this box is actually called an Eisenhower box (named after the super-efficient President) and you might have seen it before if you’ve read Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But it matters not a jot whether you know about it or not because I’ve put my own spin on it to make it work for small businesses like ours. Stay with me!  – It’s really super-simple and VERY effective!

This is an Eisenhower Box!

Eisenhower Box


So this is a Eisenhower Box – a big box containing four quadrants. Doesn’t look like much but wait, it’s VERY clever!

In a minute we’re going to put all your TODOs in this box, allocating them to quadrants depending on whether the task is important/not- important and urgent/not-urgent.

Hmm, but aren’t all important things urgent?! Well,um, actually they’re not. In fact this little misunderstanding is the reason we end up in such a HUGE muddle of being so busy on little things we don’t have time to work on the big things!

Important versus Urgent

When I first started looking at the Eisenhower Box I found it super-tricky to work out the difference between “urgent” and “important”. I really thought all my “urgent” stuff was important and my “important” stuff urgent. Maybe I’m a bit slow on the uptake but when I eventually realised how different they were -Oh My! -it helped me use my time better!

In case you find the ‘important versus urgent’ thing tricky too, here’s the rule of thumb I use to decide whether something is “urgent/not-urgent” and “important/not-important”. how to use an Eisenhower Box to make the best use of your time

I ask myself:

  • Does this task have to be done NOW? (Or TODAY?) If the answer is yes then it’s urgent.
  • Does this task directly help me make money or improve my business? If the answers is “yes” then it’s important

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. I need to refresh my  “Julia Bickerstaff” website. [The old one was so bad I took it down!] The website is not urgent (it doesn’t NOT need to be done today) but it’s important for my non-The Business Bakery work.
  2. One of my clients needs to reschedule their board meeting and I need to get back to them on my availability. It’s not important (finding a date doesn’t improve my business!) but it IS urgent.

OK! Let’s look at how to use this to help YOU!

What the four quadrants mean

more eisnenhower

So there are four quadrants in the Eisenhower Box: 

  1. Urgent and Important
  2. Not-Urgent and Important
  3. Urgent and Not-Important
  4. Not-Urgent and Not-Important

In a minute I’m going to suggest you allocate your TODO list across those four quadrants. But first, what do they mean?!

1.Important and Urgent

Well this is the stuff that needs to get done today!

Tasks that fits into this quadrant include:

  • Making/doing something for a customer today so you can meet their deadline (or delivery expectations)
  • Doing yucky but important stuff to meet a deadline (like tax returns)
  • Replying to customer queries, proposals etc

Things I include here

  • working on Snacks so that I can send it out on time!
  • coaching appointments
  • preparing for a speaking gig if I’ve left it rather to the last minute!

2.Important and Not-Urgent

This is the most important box because it’s the VERY important stuff that never gets done unless we start making time for it!

Work that fits into this quadrant includes

  • Planning your business (if you are doing the 5 Steps to a fabulous 2015 this fits in here!)
  • Actions towards your 100 day goal (and the reason I suggest you do 3 actions a day EVERY day towards your 100 Day Goal is to help you reframe these things as urgent and important……which, in turn, will help you find the time to do them!)
  • Learning new things (if you’re doing the Healthy Income Program the Cookalongs fit in here)
  • Marketing! Um, yes. Marketing is VERY important but it’s not urgent like an email that needs a reply or a customer who needs her product. [Marketing needs the same treatment as the 100 day goal: daily action to make it urgent and important!]

Here are some other Important and Not-Urgent tasks:

  • getting organized so you can find things quickly is not urgent, but is important as it will help you save time later
  • working out your six-monthly-price-rise is not urgent, but is important as it will help you make more money
  • Making a decision about whether to attend a Trade Fair is not urgent, but is important. But if you put-off the decision until the closing date for registrations then it becomes Important and Urgent!

3.Urgent and Not-Important

I’ve always found these the hardest to wrap my head around – but really most of these are admin type things – like my example, above, of finding a time for the board meeting. If you have LOTS of Urgent and Not-Important  tasks every day it’s probably a sign that you need to employ a VA or other help in your business. Urgent and Not-Important tasks are great for delegating so that you can get on with the Important and Not-Urgent tasks that usually only YOU can do!

On a side note…….I also find  – being a Mum of four – that my work days are interrupted with lots of Urgent and Not-Important things relating to my kids (calls from the school ‘cos Charlie has forgotten his sports shoes, Henry’s left his lunch at home…..that kinda thing!)

4.Not-Urgent and Not-Important

Well this box is mostly where we go when we’re procrastinating and it’s rare to finding anything on your TODO list for this one. But it does come into play when we look at how you spend your day!  Playing on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram anyone?!

Pop your TODO list in your Eisenhower Box!

Right that’s the broad explanation of the box. Now to see how it works for you we’re going to put all the tasks on your TODO list (or lists if you have lots of them!) into the Eisenhower box.

1. First of all you need to get a big piece of paper and draw/label the four quadrants. Or, if you fancy, I’ve made one you can download HERE!

2. Now put each task on your TODO list into one of the quadrants of your Eisenhower box. You might want to use the Quadrant descriptions above to help you.

3. When you’re done, take a look at your Box – are you surprised at how much you have in your Urgent and Not-Important box? Do you look at your Important and Not-Urgent and think “Um, yes I’m not tackling much of that?”

Now what?!

Well just thinking about your Eisenhower Box will help you get started on some of those Important and Not-Urgent tasks (it always does!) But if you want to make a real change to the way you work try completing a quick Eisenhower Box every day!

It takes just a minute to do so it’s not a drama but it WILL help you remember to make time for the important and Not-Urgent  stuff. Which is good ‘cos THAT’S the stuff that will have the biggest impact on helping you make a Healthy Income! It’ll also help you think twice about the Important and Not-Urgent stuff, and much like the way a food diary works for a dieter, it’ll probably completely stop you doing the Not-Urgent and Not-Important stuff!

The easiest way to do a Daily Eisenhower Box is to print off (or make) one at the start of every day and every time you do a task just pop it in the box under the appropriate quadrant.

Simps, yes?!

Using the Eisenhower Box to plan your day!

Another very GOOD way to use the box to help you make the best of your time is to pop your PLANNED activities in your box.

If you do the ‘plan tomorrow, tonight’ thing (more details here but basically every night before you go to bed write your to-do list for the next day) you can pop your plan in your Eisenhower Box to make sure you’re planning  to do some important non-urgent things! Clever, YES?!

“I’m still finding it HARD to do the important non-urgent things!”

If you’re still finding it hard to do the “Important not Urgent” things try these tips:

  1. Set aside a little time each day to work on “Important not Urgent”. Just half an hour will do. Block it in your diary as though it was a meeting. And stick to it! Once you get into the habit of doing a little every day it’ll get easier!
  2. Do you “Important not Urgent” work first thing in the morning before the day has a chance to go pear-shaped with lots of Important and Urgent stuff
  3. If you have too much in “Urgent not important” then it might be time to hire someone to help you! Often the stuff in this quadrant is work that could be given to a VA. Paying for help is essential, not a luxury! Time to try it?!
  4. If you have too much in “Not urgent, not important” then you might need to put things in place to STOP you doing this stuff. I sometimes block my computer using this so I CAN’T play on Social Media instead of writing!


Fancy giving this a try? You can download a PRETTY Eisenhower Box here!

PS If you are serious about making a Healthy Income from your solo, boutique, homebased, homemade or other small business you might like ourHealthy Income Program! We start it again on 2 February! Free warm up is open now! You can read about it HERE!♥

PPS If you enjoyed reading this you might like to get our weekly Snacks! We pop all our articles in there plus some FAB stuff we find from other people too! You can get it here!

More reading

Here’s more reading about the Eisenhower Box from The Art of Manliness (don’t know what I was doing on that site!) and James Clear, if you’re interested!




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