How Eisenhower helped me slay the ASAP beast

This is probably a rant, but it is also about productivity. If you’ve ever seen the Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix (if not, see below) – you’ll notice the top right corner. ASAP or As Soon As Possible falls into that. The truth is not all ASAPs are the same.

And why do I hate the use of that phrase, because as it turns out, very few things require ASAP attention. When someone says ASAP (a small four letter word that destroys productivity), it diminishes the value of any other request that doesn’t have ASAP. And before you know it, the only way to get things done is by throwing ASAPs around.

If you practice this in your organization, you really don’t know what “PRIORITY” means and as a result, you’re inefficient and imho, incompetent to make decisions. You’re basically firefighting every day, and everything is urgent, like now!

So how would you handle ASAP?

Don’t (that’s being reactive). Politely ask the person when it really needs to get done by. If they repeat ASAP, then it means its not a priority (they have no real reason or clue how important it is). Try to get them to fix a reasonable date/time around that. And if it falls within your scope – go ahead and get it done.

I understand that if you’re in a subordinate position, it’s going to be difficult to ask your boss when it really needs to get done by. Your boss could give you a crazy deadline, like yesterday or less forgiving EOD or he could fire you. If you’re not working for that organization after practicing this, consider it best not to work for a company that has no focus. Move on… you’ll be thanking me one day.

Using Todoist

Having used Todoist for over a year, I can say it’s really helped with getting shit done. There are some things that I’d love to see on Todoist which include 1) Calendar (seeing where the tasks are) and 2) Timer (e.g. like a pomodoro timer) and in both cases, TickTick does a far better job. Anyways, if you’re hooked with Todoist, then check out this tutorial on how to setup the Eisenhower Matrix within Todoist. I prefer using the priority p1, p2, p3 instead of labels as you have to type more, and think a bit extra. But each to his own.

Footnote: This technique was first used by Former US President Eisenhower who used it to organize his tasks. It was Dr. Covey, author bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, who popularized it.

Image Credit: Tuzzit