How to own your day (4 Time Management Methods)


“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

What to do

Own your day with 4 time management methods.

Why it works

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (pictured above) rose to fame as a superb leader and strategist during World War II. As the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, he oversaw the planning and execution of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Famously known as D-Day, this invasion marked a turning point in the war and led to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation.

Besides his leadership, Eisenhower was also known for his exceptional ability to manage his time and priorities. During his presidency from 1953 to 1961, he faced many responsibilities, ranging from domestic issues to international affairs. Throughout his long career, he was deliberate about distinguishing between what’s truly important and merely urgent. He excelled at remaining focused on the most significant, important tasks while not succumbing to the pressures of the immediate, urgent ones.

As his example shows, the key to time management is balancing urgent and important work. If you want to own your day, you need to decide which tasks are urgent, which tasks are important, and when (not) to do specific tasks. Here are 4 time management methods to pull this off and own your day — plus a handy cheat sheet.

How to do it

  1. Eisenhower Matrix. Created by Eisenhower himself (and popularized in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”), this is arguably the best tool for determining what’s urgent, important, both or neither. After classifying all your tasks accordingly, start with those in the “Do” quadrant (see cheat sheet below). Then, move on to the “Schedule” quadrant. Only then work on the lower quadrants (the “Delegate” and “Eliminate” ones). Learn more about using the Eisenhower Matrix here.
  2. Eat the Frog. Popularized by Marc Twain, this is a great way to make progress on hard and important tasks (e.g. deep work). It’s dead simple: do your most important, hardest work first thing in the morning. If you’re among the 25% of people with a late chronotype (aka “night owls”), do it later in the day instead. If you want to learn more about determining your chronotype and timing deep work accordingly, check out this article.
  3. Pomodoro. Use Francesco Cirillo’s popular method to complete hard and urgent tasks (e.g., email). Here’s how: Focus for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Repeat four times, then take a longer break. While Cirillo’s method is helpful for shorter tasks, it’s far from ideal for challenging deep work that requires extended focus. That’s why I use an altered version of that method — the Pomodoro 2.0. Learn more about the Pomodoro 2.0 here.
  4. Timeboxing. Popularized by Nir Eyal in his book “Indistractable”, this is the best method I’m aware of to decide when (not) to do specific urgent or important tasks throughout your day. Here’s how to use it: Start by grouping similar tasks together and put them on your calendar (see cheat sheet below). As you go through your day, stick to the schedule whenever possible, and adapt it if necessary. If you want to delve deeper into timeboxing, read this article.

Try these 4 time management methods to own your day – and follow me on LinkedIn for daily tips and more cheat sheets on habits, productivity and personal development.

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