Written by: Kelly Crossley, Maureen Data Systems (MDS), Microsoft Azure Practice Lead

Prior to becoming the 34th President of the US, Dwight Eisenhower served as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. Eisenhower was faced with many tough decisions concerning the tasks he had to focus on every day. This led him to invent a principle that helps us prioritize our tasks by urgency and importance.

“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” 

– President Dwight D. Eisenhower

What is the Eisenhower Method?

The Eisenhower Method of time of time management is broken down to a simple process.

You either:

  • Do it.
  • Defer it until later.
  • Delegate it.
  • Or delete it.

Do It.

If a task can be completed there and then in a few minutes, then just do it. Provided of course it is not a task to delete, delegate or defer. In other words, if it is important for you to do and you have the time to do it, then get it done straight away. People often start with a task, get sidetracked and start with another, then come back to the first and at the end of the day they were busy, but not productive.

If your task takes longer than 120 seconds and you still need to do it, work on this task alone for 30 minutes or until you complete it. Remember, multitasking is the enemy of effective time management.

Defer it.

You might have a task that can’t be completed quickly and is not of a high priority at that time — simply defer it. You might even find that some of the tasks that you defer could become obsolete and be deleted.

Additionally, there may be some tasks that come across your desk that you may just not be able to deal with straight away. You can defer it and look at the email later in your free time. It could be a very important task, yet it might be able to wait until an upcoming meeting in a few days. You can spend the time until then planning the meeting and getting the things done that are more important at that point in time.

Delegate it.

Is it important or necessary for you to do the task? Is it your responsibility to do? If the answer is no, then delegate it. You might still be ultimately accountable for the completion of the task, but ask yourself if you are the one best suited for the work. There is a fine line between delegation and abdication. Ensure that there is some measure in place to check that the task has been completed by the person to whom you have delegated. Note that delegating does not just have to be to people that may report to you. You can delegate across, upwards and to other departments as well.

Delete it.

Check whether the thing requires your attention or is worth your time. If it does not, then simply delete it. If you are unsure, then in Outlook as an example, you can have a preview of the emails.

If there are some emails that are not important to attend to right now, but you would like to have a look at them later, then you can defer them and move on. Always ask yourself “is this worth my time”. Is it necessary to spend any of your time on it?

Remember the 80/20 rule and that often people spend 80% of their time on activities that are a waste of time.

How do I Implement the Eisenhower Method?

The process to setup the method in M365 is easy, though there are a few critical “order of precedence” items that you will need to follow. The how involves 3 primary toolings.

  • Outlook – We all live in email, it’s the core of who we are as a society. Consider your email the source of all of your tasks.
  • Planner – Its intuitive and easy to use but not many know it’s there. Consider Planner as the destination and where you will review the 4D Board.
  • Power Automate – Previously known as “Flow”, the flow that you implement will be the way your email is setup as a task in Planner.

Step 1 – Outlook: Ensure you have outlook installed locally or just login to M365 and access your email via a web browser. By now, everyone uses their email on a regular basis, so explanation shouldn’t be needed.

Step 2 – Planner: Planner is a light weight, mobile and web-based application that comes with most Office 365 for business subscriptions. With Planner you and your team can create plans, assign tasks, chat about tasks, and see charts of your team’s progress. Create Kanban boards using content-rich task cards.

Step 3 –Power Automate: Power Automate is a service that helps you create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services to synchronize files, get notifications, collect data, and more.

How to Setup:

Start with Planner

  1. Type http://office.com/signin or https://admin.microsoft.com into the Address bar and sign in with the account you want.
  2. On Microsoft 365 home page, select the app launcher at the top of the browser window.
  3. Select the Planner tile in the app launcher, or on the home page. 
    Note: If you don’t see the Planner option, you may need to select All Apps or Explore all your apps to find it.
  4. Create a Plan & 5 buckets – For instructions on how, access the helpful link below. You will need to create these buckets
  5. Copy the URL in your browser, while the plan is open, to your notepad. It will look like this: https://tasks.office.com/YourCompany.com/en-US/Home/Planner/#/plantaskboard? groupId=dba5ae63-5ae6-43fa-e63d-a2aa5ae63d37&planId=JTz3WQADU7d9bvzIE20W9JEHFS9i
  6. The key element to what you need will be the value for the planId. Save that value…
    • planId=JTz3WQADU7d9bvzIE20W9JEHFS9i
    • This is a “in case of emergency, break glass” step. You may not need it.

Now Power Automate

  1. As you are signed into Microsoft 365, on the home page, select the app launcher at the top of the browser window.
  2. Select the Power Automate tile in the app launcher, or on the home page. Note: If you don’t see the Power Automate option, you may need to select All Apps or Explore all your apps to find it.
  3. We will now create a flow from a template. In the search box that says “ “ paste Create planner tasks for flagged emails in Office 365 Outlook and hit enter.
  4. Select the one that has over 1400+ users and contains the 5 icons shown in the picture.
  5. You will see the information below, select ‘Continue’
  6. A set of tasks will show up for your flow. Select the email folder ‘inbox’
  7. Scroll down to the ‘Create a Task’ component and where the Plan ID is, pick the plan that you created in ‘Start with Planner’ item 4 above. If your plan doesn’t show up, then in the ‘Enter a custom value’ area, enter the planId saved in ‘Start with Planner’ item 6 above.
  8. In the third element that is labeled ‘Bucket Id’, Select Incoming.
  9. Select the ‘Save’ button.
  10. On the top left you will see the first image below.
  11. On the top right, select the Test icon

Congratulations!! You’ve entered a new more productive world. Just sending the emails to planner is one piece of your 4D Time Management system. Your tasks will reside in the ‘Incoming bucket’ in planner. A good practice to get into is to spend 15 minutes, each day, planning your day according to your 4D board. Move the tasks from Incoming to Do, Defer, Delegate or Delete at your discretion. Once you have completed a task, don’t forget to mark it as complete.

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