At Museums Unbound, we juggle a lot of tasks, trade ideas, and pitch projects back and forth over hundreds of miles. It’s not hard to get disorganized. At this time of year especially, year-end tasks have piled up. Museums Unbound consultant Jodi Larson has a trick to her to-do list that she loves to share: the Eisenhower Square.
This isn’t a new tool at all. The “Eisenhower” part is from President Eisenhower and it is a prioritization method he used as a military general. Think of it as a “sorting hat” based on whether or not the things on your ever-growing to-do list are urgent and important. Tasks and projects end up in one of four categories.
If something is both important and urgent, then that is a fire that needs to be put out right away and it goes straight to the “Do Now” category. If something is Important but it’s not as urgent, then you can “Decide” when to address it. Things that are urgent but not as important get sorted into the “Delegate” category. If something is neither urgent nor important it gets “Deleted.”
The goal is to prioritize your tasks so that you can look at your to-do list as a helpful tool rather than an overwhelming page of swimming words and bullet points. Jodi knows that no matter where her busy day takes her, she can return to her list and look directly at the “Do Now” section for a hint on what she should be doing (instead of the more fun or distracting thing she’d rather be doing).
The goal is to keep most of what have on your list in the “Decide” section because the urgent fires in the “Do Now” category are mostly out and you’ve “Delegated” anything you can assign elsewhere and gotten rid of stuff you don’t need to be doing.
Okay, there are some major flaws in the General’s plan. First, Eisenhower had an entire military under his command and so delegating tasks seems like a legitimate tools for clearing one’s list. Most people don’t actually have a legion of underlings. Maybe there is a staffer or volunteer who’d be better suited to a task or two but it's unlikely that there is a lot of relief waiting in that category. The other flaw in this system is the “Delete” category. Most of us don’t have the luxury of just axing a task off the list. Jodi has changed her “Delete” section to “Dungeon” so as to continue to store forever the “someday” ideas in an oubliette for future doing. These are all things that could be useful or helpful but there is a lot of stuff that comes before them on the rest of the list.
We hope that you find this organization tool as helpful as Jodi does!