Urgent vs Important | Personal Finance Edition

Urgent vs Important | Personal Finance Edition

Source: Surface via Unsplash 

We've all been there: feeling like we've done so much, but not really accomplishing much. This is a feeling many of us can resonate with. 

Well, I've been reading up on how to improve my productivity and I came across the "Eisenhower Matrix."

What is the Eisenhower Matrix?

As you can see in the Instagram post above, the Eisenhower Matrix is "a decision-making tool that helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all."(1)

The Eisenhower Matrix is named after Dwight David Eisenhower. He was an American army general and statesman. Furthermore, he was the 34th President of the United States.(2) He used the Eisenhower Matrix to decide which tasks he would focus on. This decision was based on matters of importance vs urgency. 

The Eisenhower Matrix is also known as the "Urgent-Important Matrix."(3)

Why is the Eisenhower Matrix Important?

In this hyper-connected world we live in, we are bombarded by things that constantly call for our attention. Notifications on our smartphones, personalised ads as we mindlessly scroll through social media, the news, our emails, etc. Literally everything begs for our attention. “Attention is the new currency,” people say. How do we determine what we should focus on to improve our productivity and make the best use of our time? That’s where the Eisenhower Matrix comes into play.

We can use the Eisenhower Matrix to identify tasks that:

  • Should be done first (Quadrant 1);
  • We should schedule (Quadrant 2);
  • We should delegate (Quadrant 3); and 
  • We should not do (Quadrant 4).

As can be seen in the matrix above, the tasks we should "do first" are both urgent and important. The tasks we shouldn't concern ourselves too much with are less urgent and less important. These are the tasks we "shouldn't do." In between these two types of tasks, we have the tasks that are less urgent, but important. These are the tasks we should "schedule." Lastly, we have tasks that are urgent, but less important. We should consider "delegating" these tasks.

According to the Eisenhower Matrix, urgent tasks are tasks that usually have an immediate deadline, whereas important tasks do not necessarily have an immediate deadline. Urgent tasks rarely contribute to you achieving a long-term objective or goal. Conversely, important tasks usually contribute to you achieving a long term objective or goal. 

How Does the Eisenhower Matrix Relate to Our Personal Finances?

The Eisenhower Matrix can improve our decision-making when it comes to our spending. We can also use it to decide which financial decisions must be prioritised.

Let's take a look at four different financial tasks that fall within different quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix.

Urgent and Important

Having to buy textbooks for your lectures that begin within the next few days is both urgent and important. It is urgent, because you have a short window of time to purchase the textbooks and pre-read them before lectures. It's also important, because reading your textbooks and doing the examples within them is crucial to your academic success. It helps to buy the textbooks as soon as you can. Use that money for the textbooks; don't spend it frivolously. After having purchased the books, you can dedicate yourself to diligently reading them.

Source: Tony Awards on GIPHY

Besides getting all your textbooks when starting a new academic year at university, you need to also buy stationery. This is important, but less urgent as you'll usually have stationery left over from your last year of high school or the previous tertiary academic year. Students usually sort this out after the first week of university, if they haven't gotten all their materials beforehand. You need to buy stationery to write notes, create flashcards, etc. This purchase is usually scheduled to take place when students have a bit more free time — over the weekend.

Another example would be picking up your laptop from IT when you've just started a new job. You'll be required to provide your details to them (email address, cell phone number, etc) and choose a password before you are provided with a company laptop. You need the laptop to do your job and it's important to get your laptop sorted out within your first few days of starting the new job.  

Less Urgent and Important

A task that does not seem to require your immediate action, but is incredibly important is setting up an emergency fund. It's not urgent when you're not facing a financial crisis, but it is everything when in one. Unexpected medical costs, home repairs, and helping out relatives are some events that require the buffer of an emergency fund. Regularly contributing towards an emergency fund may not seem like something you need to be getting started with ASAP, but it is vitally important. Not only can having an emergency fund help you in times of financial distress, it can help lessen the financial pressure.

Urgent and Less Important

Examples of urgent but less important tasks are meetings and events. People tend to complain about meetings taking too much of their time and not accomplishing much. While this is often true, what some people fail to realise is that they can decide to book a conference room (pre-covid) to get work done quietly. A more current option (due to remote work) would be to block out time in your work calendar and mark it as "Busy." This is so your co-workers know that you aren't available to join meetings. You can even send out an email to your team sharing the times you'll be available. 

Campus activations and events are another time suck. Oxford Languages defines a "time suck" as "an inefficient or unproductive activity, process, etc." and "a waste of time." 

You may finding yourself enticed by the freebies and sales pitches by campus activators and decide to wait in line to get a freebie or sign up for a service, club or membership. Kindly note that the novelty of getting a freebie wears off when you realise there's a bill you have to pay every month or so. Yikes!

These tasks are urgent because you don't know when the activation team will be back on campus again, so it's time-sensitive. On the other hand, campus activations and events are not important because they take away time from achieving your main objective at university — passing and graduating.

You can choose to delegate this task by splitting up with your friends and each visiting different stalls to get freebies for the others. This way, you save time and get more freebies!

P.S. If there's a free trial to the service, club or membership you've joined, don't forget to cancel the your subscription before the billing date. That way you're really getting stuff for free!

Source: Hey Arnold on GIPHY

Less Urgent and Less Important

Tasks that fall within this final category are those that don't contribute to you achieving a long-term objective or goal.

A classic example of this is scrolling through social media and mindlessly scrolling the web. Not only do these activities waste time, but they can be costly. Apps like Instagram consume a lot of data and depending on where you live, data can be quite expensive. Data costs are so high in South Africa that there's an online petition called #DataMustFall. It has even been reported that data prices in South Africa are among the highest in Africa. Unless you have uncapped fibre or can use free public WiFi, spending more time on social media will cost you more. 

Wrap up

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. 

What do you think of the Eisenhower Matrix? Is this the first time you've heard about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Till next time!

Take care,


This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. 

The information presented herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional financial advice.

Always talk to your financial advisor about the risks and benefits of any financial information shared. If you are looking for financial advice, kindly speak to somebody who is certified and registered with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA).

eishstudentbudget™ and its owner(s) are not liable for any loss, harm, or damage you may incur as a result of you using the information presented here.

List of sources consulted:

1. Eisenhower.me. [Sa]. Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix. [O].
Available: www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/
Accessed on 2021/04/10

2. Luxafor.com. [Sa]. The Eisenhower Matrix: Time and Task Management Made Simple. [O].
Available: https://luxafor.com/the-eisenhower-matrix/
Accessed on 2021/04/10

3. Eisenhower.me. [Sa]. Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix. [O]. 
Available: www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/
Accessed on 2021/04/10

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