Focus Matrix to-do app helps prioritize 'urgent' and 'important' tasks

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the thirty-fourth president of the United States was apparently an organizational guru, and the new Focus Matrix app for iOS and Mac focuses on the former president's 'urgent/important' matrix for prioritizing to-dos.


Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Credit: Executive Office of the President of the United States

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general during World War II and the thirty-fourth POTUS. Not too surprisingly given his accomplishments, he knew how to get stuff done. On the man's long list of claims to fame is "organizational guru" ... sort of.

With just a cursory search, I found about a dozen apps built around what came to be known as the "Eisenhower Matrix," the "Eisenhower Decision Matrix," or more simply, the "Eisenhower box."

eisenhower app Xwavesoft

The idea behind the former president's matrix is to prioritize your action items to be more efficient and focused, and then assign them to one of four categories: "Important/Urgent," "Important/Not Urgent," "Not Important/Urgent," and "Not Important/Not Urgent."

If this strategy intrigues you, you should download the new iOS and Mac app, Focus Matrix. The freemium software makes it easy to add to-do items to one of the four quadrants; view to-dos at a glance in quadrant- or list-view; add due dates and tags; review reports of completed tasks; and more.

To sync to-dos across multiple devices, you need to upgrade to the Pro version, which costs $2 on iOS and $3 on Mac. If you prefer a visual approach to prioritizing to-dos and want the sync capabilities, the upgrade is worth the money.

If you just want to quickly capture to-do items, however, Focus Matrix and apps like it probably aren't for you. The Eisenhower box requires you to think about your to-do items more than you might want to — which isn't actually a bad thing. But how do you determine if action items are unimportant but also urgent? Aren't urgent to-dos by default important? And if something is neither important nor urgent, does it really need to be entered into a to-do app at all?

Eisenhower didn't really provide guidance on how to use the decision-making matrix that was eventually attributed to him. During a 1954 speech, he quoted someone else as saying that there are essentially two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. "The urgent are not important," Eisenhower said. "And the important are never urgent." 

OK. Well. That clears everything up ....

If you want to dig a little deeper, check out the Quote Investigator's post on the origins of Eisenhower's quote, and its afterlife. It's an important read for folks who value organization, though it's hardly urgent.

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