Applying the Eisenhower Matrix to Home Maintenance: Keys to Successful Household Task Prioritization

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Procrastination is a problem that almost everyone has to deal with; we can all be guilty at times of putting off tasks that need to be done in favor of other things, which may be more enjoyable. If you know someone who spends too much time on social media at home, then complains about always having to deal with a mountain of piled-up housework, odds are there’s nothing wrong with their home; what they need to do is improve their time management skill.

One system of time management which has been used to great effect in the workplace is the Eisenhower matrix. Inspired by the 34th president’s productivity techniques and made popular by Stephen Covey in the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this matrix can be applied not only to work-related efforts but also to home maintenance. The technique simply requires you to categorize tasks into one of four quadrants according to importance and urgency.

Important and urgent

Someone new to this undertaking can easily conflate important with urgent, but they aren’t the same. When it comes to home maintenance, importance relates to improved outcomes, and urgency is associated with time. External factors can also affect the prioritization of tasks. For instance, living in a house with a draft can be uncomfortable yet tolerable, but if it’s nearing winter in a place like Utah, homeowners would be well-advised to immediately locate the source of the problem, seal windows and repair the garage door as Salt Lake City’s winter inversions settle in.

Important, but not urgent

If you’ve ever kept a to-do list, you’ll notice some tasks get checked off quickly while others stick around. In the same way, certain household tasks persist but don’t require immediate attention. For example, tidying up your home is essential for long-term well-being, but if you have a lot of stuff to clear up, it’s not feasible to sort through all the clutter in one go. For these sorts of tasks, break them down into smaller pieces – one shelf or closet at a time – that can be tackled when you have free time.

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Urgent, but not important

Small-scale household tasks that get done quickly tend to fall in this category. If you lost your house keys or damaged the main doorknob, it’s simple enough to get a replacement at the hardware store and install it yourself, even though homeowners in some areas may feel safe enough to leave their doors unlocked all day. These jobs tend to be low-hanging fruit, and clearing them off the list as they pop up is not only easy but saves you more effort in the long term.

Neither important nor urgent

A lot of homeowners get excited about envisioning a new construction project for their home. Maybe it’s a makeover to bring in new interior design elements, or some landscaping work to give new functionality to outdoor spaces. When you think about it, though, few of these projects are either necessary or time-specific. Home improvements that simply add value – as opposed to those which are needed, such as a new room for a growing child, or an additional bathroom when multiple occupants are going to work or school each day – are the type of tasks which can be put off indefinitely until you have sufficient time and resources to indulge in them.

With this system of time management, you can effectively prioritize tasks at home to avoid congestion and make time for the stuff that matters most.

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