Planning with Eisenhower

Don’t you hate it when a quote stays with you, but you forget where you got it from? Well, here is such a quote (my apologies to the author): you are going to grow, you may as well do so with purpose.

As I go out into the world and engage in my daily activities, I will be shaped by what I encounter and this will lead to my growth. 24 hour news. Squid Games. Facebook. These will all shape my brain. Wouldn’t it be better if I put some planning into my growth?

I am reading The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell. Maxwell encourages his readers to take an intentional and planned approach to growth. Determine where you want to go. Figure out how you want to get there. Establish a system for getting yourself from here to there. This is how purposeful growth happens. I am studying for a professional certification which has been in the works for 3 months. I knew that it would take quite some time and I developed a plan to chip away at it in a focused, systematized manner. I’m in the last few weeks of preparation, and I’m proud of the progress that I have made.

When it comes to planning to grow, I think of Dwight Eisenhower. No one can argue that Eisenhower may be our country’s greatest planner. Eisenhower had a mental model for getting things done, and it applies particularly well to growth.

Consider a 2 X 2 grid. Along the X axis we see “Urgent” & “Not Urgent”, and along the Y axis we see “Important” & “Not Important”.

Therefore, the top left square represents activities in your life that are Urgent and Important. The bottom left represents activities that are Urgent and Not Important. The top right represents activities that are Important and Not Urgent. And, the bottom right represents activities that are Not Important and Not Urgent.

As we go about our day, we are quite good at establishing what is important and urgent and taking care of those tasks. However, our human brains get a little confused for the next set of tasks. We often mistaken urgency for importance. Just because a task needs to get done soon does not make it important. But, in our haste, we often aim to get those urgent things done as soon as possible. In turn, the tasks that are not-urgent but important tend to suffer. If we do not have a plan to accomplish the important and not urgent tasks, they often get pushed aside by the urgent and not important tasks.

I can think of many examples from life where this happens. Volunteering to help out at the last minute, or cleaning out your inbox, and then not getting in your workout, or having less time with the kids. The urgent overshadows the important.

Growth is the classic example of an endeavor that is important, but not urgent. How tempting it is to answer the additional e-mails that demand urgent attention and forego developing yourself. This is to say nothing of the time suck that is the bottom right square – not urgent and not important – which is where our reality tv binges go.

The pandemic gave many of us some extra space in our lives with fewer urgent matters demanding our attention. Based on the above Eisenhower grid, the reduction in urgent demand should have allowed us to see what was important and not important more clearly. If ever there was an opportunity for growth, this was it.

Only in the last 8 months did I realize this opportunity, and began planning various growth strategies with concerted effort. I now hope that I have laid groundwork for purposeful growth going into the future. My current plan for daily growth works in my current chaotic life. As the world continues to move towards “normal”, whatever that means in 2021, and we further our post-pandemic engagement, the louder the siren song to squeeze out those important but not urgent tasks. That is where I want my groundwork to hold, and to maintain my path towards growth.

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