The Eisenhower Matrix and Tiny Habits

You might be familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix:

It’s a framework for deciding what to prioritize.

  1. You think about whether something is important or not important.
  2. Then you think about whether it’s urgent or not urgent.

Here’s an observation: the tiny habits that help you to achieve a goal live in the Not Urgent + Important corner. Yet, the ambition of that overarching goal lives in the Urgent + Important corner.

For example, you’re looking to lose 20 pounds to fit into your wedding dress over the next 12 months. When you envision yourself at your wedding, taking photos, dancing, mingling with friends and family whom you might see just once in a decade, you could think that losing those 20 pounds would be a a matter of the highest urgency. Yes, it is a full year away, but the goal is so important to you that the sense of urgency just looms over you.

But, the actual habits that will get you to lose weight might live in the very non-urgent corner. Your body probably won’t send you angry signals if you keep the status quo. You might feel more urgency making your morning cup of coffee than you do setting up a new grocery list and brainstorming less caloric foods. Your body might even tell you, “Actually, this isn’t so urgent, you’ve got time, let’s get a bowl of ice cream and binge watch this show!”

So the axis of Urgency might trip us up more than it helps us. Looking at this framework as a whole, it looks like the resulting priorities let us see how motivated we’d be to do something. But it doesn’t ask you to rate how able you are to do that thing, or how you’re going to be prompted to do it.

More on Tiny Habits later. A big thanks to my partner (in knowledge and in life), Fei, for lifting up the huuuuge lessons from this little book.