Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool 2503 1985 Manolis Stratakis

Is the time in our day enough?

Time is one of the most democratic things on the planet. Not intelligence. Not money. Not health. Not happiness. Time! Everybody has 24 hours. If you think about it, time is our most important asset. We start off as babies, having all the time of the world and as we grow up we come to a point when every single minute of our day is occupied with something. Then we complain we don’t have time. Wrong! We still have 24 hours. But our day is now filled with stuff.

The Matrix as a time management tool

“When you don’t have time, make time”. It may sound counter-intuitive, but perhaps it is a perfect advice. The Eisenhower Matrix is the tool we need to make time.

US General and President Eisenhower once said: “I have two kinds of problems: Urgent and Important. What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”.

eisenhower matrix

A common pattern in businesses but also in our personal life is that we often move from one urgent matter to the next, devoting no time to the important issues. Like a never-ending queue of urgent things which, no matter how many we complete, new ones continuously appear. We are at a constant war with a modern Lernaean Hydra. We cut one head and two new heads spring out of nowhere.

If we analyse the four areas of the Eisenhower matrix, it will immediately become clear how it will help us manage our time:

Quadrant 1: (Urgent and Important): Do First!

This is the most critical area, it contains tasks that are both urgent and important. These are “do first” tasks because they are critical for our life or career. Typical Q1 activities include important problems, deadlines and crises.

Quadrant 2: (Important, but Not Urgent): Schedule!

Here we place the tasks that are important, but not urgent. This is where we need to invest most of our time. These are usually our personal and professional long-term goals and activities relevant to the significant areas of our life like education, career, family, recreation or personal growth. Put these tasks in suspension until you find enough time to work on them carefully. Beware, these tasks may not be urgent, but if left neglected, sooner or later they become urgent.

Quadrant 3 (Not Important, but Urgent): Delegate!

If a task deserves to be in this quadrant, then you don’t deserve to perform it. It is most likely a distraction and you better pass it to someone else or postpone it. Many tasks appear to be urgent when actually they are not. Most messages and telephone calls fall into this category. If you answer every call or text you receive immediately, then you will not be able to do anything that requires undistracted attention. The same is true with business meetings. You don’t have to participate in every meeting you are invited, you can choose if you need to be present or not. A common source of Q3 activities is other people. Saying “no” politely or encouraging them to solve the problem themselves usually does the trick.

Quadrant 4: (Not Important, Not Urgent): Eliminate or Keep to a minimum!

These tasks that are neither important nor urgent are simply time wasters and they should be eliminated, or cut down to a minimum. If you drastically reduce the amount of time spent in quadrant 4 tasks, you will free up lots of precious time for your quadrant 1 or 2 tasks. Mindlessly watching television, playing games or surfing the web are only some of the typical ways for wasting time. This does not mean of course that watching a good movie or resting is a waste of time. We need to be very careful when distinguishing what is and what isn’t important for us.


Sometimes, procrastination kicks in when we are not very clear about what is important or urgent. It causes confusion and leaves us standing still while trying to decide what to bring on the foreground next.

When you first try this tool, you may have some difficulty labeling your tasks. It may be frustrating and you may feel you are wasting your time. You are not wasting time, you are investing some of your precious time learning a great skill that will empower you with precious focus and self-awareness. It will save you way more time for the rest of your life.


Johari Window: A strong realization towards Self-knowledge

Johari Window: A strong realization towards Self-knowledge 2560 1957 Manolis Stratakis

The Johari Window is a great self-awareness tool. It is named after the first names of the two psychologists who have invented it (Joseph Lufft and Ηarry Ingam).

This tool can help us discover important aspects of ourselves with emphasis in critical skills such as behavior, empathy, team cooperation and personal development.

This tool divides our Self in four areas:

  • Open (known to us, known to others)
  • Hidden (known to us, unknown to others)
  • Blind (unknown to us, known to others)
  • Unknown (unknown to us, unknown to others)

Let’s now see each of them in more detail:

Open Self

This is the public part of our self, the part which is visible both to us and the others. It comprises everything that we freely disclose and share, like some of our experiences, knowledge, opinion, emotions, character traits, wishes and problems. People with a large open self possess a high degree of self-awareness, clarity, self-confidence and authenticity. They feel comfortable with themselves, they know their strong character traits but also their drawbacks, they set their own path to life, they possess a high level of confidence about their decisions and they rarely feel any need of approval from others.

Hidden Self

This is the part of our self which is visible to us, but invisible to the others. In this area we keep our very personal information, all those things we are not willing to share with others, since they might be our weak points, dysfunctions, fears, emotions, motives, desires, mistakes, secrets or guilt. Nevertheless, this area may also contain some of our positive traits which we still do not disclose out of modesty or shyness. The amount of trust we have in other persons, guides us to decide about the amount of information we share with them. People with an over-sized hidden self tend to be more introvert and secretive and may often seem distant or lost.

Blind Self

It is that part of our personality that is invisible to us but visible to the others. It contains information such as non-verbal communication, our peculiarities and all those characteristics which others see in us, or possibly translate different than us. Through well-intentioned criticism we will become aware of certain things, therefore moving them from the blind to the open (or hidden) area. People with a large blind area can be extremely naive and this creates trouble in their professional or social relations.

Unknown Self

It this part of our self that neither we nor the others around us can see. It contains all those things which are out of our awareness window, such as depressed feelings and experiences which have been stored deeply in our subconscious. They can reside there forever and stay unknown, or we may discover them at some moment. Then they will move to another area (hidden, blind or even open). Those with disproportionately large unknown self are persons for whom self-knowledge is an unknown word. They have never invest in their self-improvement. They usually have troubled relationships with others but also with themselves and they generally have a vague picture of the world they leave in.

The rest of the iceberg

While the three first areas are only the tip of the iceberg, the unknown self is the rest of the iceberg. It is the part which contains the biggest chunk of information about who we are. Most of the people never dare to dive in the cold blurry waters of their mind, even when they have been convinced that there is a treasure hidden in there. Those who take the chance, after the first shock, they realize that self-awareness is an art: the more you practice, the better you become, and the better you are at it, the greater the benefits.

Techniques like self-observation, introspection and meditation can help us get acquainted with an important part of our unknown self, with amazing long-term results. Psychoanalysis and Coaching will also open the door for us and guide us hand by hand in the path of self-knowledge.


Response Style

Response Style 2560 1763 Manolis Stratakis

There are 4 distinct styles of response at the good news of someone else (partner, friend, kid, spouse, etc.):

  • Active Constructive
  • Passive Constructive
  • Active Destructive
  • Passive Destructive

Example: The husband/wife returns home at the afternoon:

  • Honey! I got the promotion!!

Spouse: (Select one of the following to find your current response style!)

Constructive·       Excitement

·       Eye contact

·       Authentic smile

·       Joy


Well done baby! Amazing news, I knew you will do it! How do you feel now?(looks into her/his eyes)


Wait for me to open a nice bottle of wine to celebrate this!

·       Low energy

·       Delayed response

·       Quiet



Ah ok… [pause of several seconds] That’s very good for you.


(Gazing at his/her shoes)


Destructive·       Quashing the event

·       Dismissive

·       Demeaning



And now we are going to see you even less? Are you sure you can manage with more obligations?


·       Avoiding

·       Ignoring

·       Turns focus inwards



Well, we have so many problems and you only care about yourself…


How often do you experience Flow?

How often do you experience Flow? 2351 2126 Manolis Stratakis

Our Growth, Stagnation and Flow zones

Daily we all deal with various activities. Some of them are simple and easy or familiar. We have repeated them many times, and they have become “automatic”. They are not difficult for us, so they can often cause boredom. Dealing with them may feel comfortable but we soon lose our interest as we do never leave our comfort zone, which also happens to be our stagnation zone.

Some others are new to us, therefore unknown, or they may be familiar but tough. These move us out of our comfort zone and usually cause discomfort, anxiety or fear. But these are the ones that help us evolve. That’s where our growth zone is.

There are some others whose difficulty is almost matching our level of skill.

The mental state of Flow

We have all been involved in an activity in which we have experienced a state of intense concentration and total commitment. During these activities we feel that we are very capable and in complete control of the situation. Our skills operate to the fullest. The sense of time as well as any negative emotions disappear, and we are overwhelmed by a wonderful sense of transcendence. Whenever we have experienced this situation we are in a state of flow.

The phenomenon of flow has first been referenced by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. He describes the mental state of a person in flow as “being completely absorbed in an activity for the activity itself and only. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought inevitably follows the preceding, as if playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”.

The Optimal experienceas Csikszentmihalyi named this mental state – usually occurs if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. “Optimal experience, where flow is realized, is thus something we make happen”.

Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model recognizes eight emotional mental states:

  1. Apathy– no interest, the person is apathetic to the subject and situation
  2. Boredom– no interest in the situation, bored, and maybe run-down
  3. Relaxation– calmness or lack of excitement
  4. Worry– focus with worry, problems grow and are viewed as having no solution
  5. Control–feelings of dominance. Automatizing skills by practice; the activity is currently hard but the person feels that they have a command of the situation
  6. Anxiety– could be the reason for someone freezing or shutting down
  7. Arousal– with the reinforcement of arousal, the person approaches their surroundings more attentively
  8. Flow– the mental state that ensures the person focusing completely on the task or activity – generally results in the action being completed successfully

The state of FLOW can be seen in people who masterwork life, art, sports or a hobby. From the outside it may seem like they are doing the task with great ease, however, if you look at it from within, they have completely devoted themselves to what they are doing in order to achieve this level of skill.

Our Attention and Order in Mind

The best state of our inner experience happens when there is order in our minds. The prerequisite for this to happen is that our psychic energy, or otherwise our attention, is invested in realistic goals and our skills match our choices for action. The pursuit of a goal brings order to a person’s consciousness, because he must concentrate on the task at hand and forget about everything else. These times when one struggles to overcome various challenges are the happiest of his life. Thus, a person who has gained control over his mental energy and has invested in consciously chosen goals can only grow into a higher being.

Flow, then, is the mental state of a person who performs an activity in which they are completely absorbed, live the experience of being fully involved, with a sense of active concentration and complete immersion, while enjoying the whole process.

Note that it is not simply the balance between task difficulty and skill level which causes flow, but the balance in higher levels of difficulty and skill. In lower levels even when balance exists, we may be in a state of apathy or lack of interest.

Characteristics of Flow

We have all had flow experiences, therefore it is not difficult to recognize some of their characteristics:

  1. Clear, specific, demanding but feasible goals.
  2. High concentration on the present moment and in the actual activity, with no room in mind for any other information
  3. Activities are intrinsically rewarding
  4. Sense of tranquility. Actions and awareness are merged
  5. Transformation of time. Usually, time passes much faster than expected
  6. Immediate feedback on the progress
  7. A sense of balance between the task difficulty and our skill level. Feelings of assertiveness and self-confidence
  8. Sense of adequate control over the activity, with no worries about failure
  9. Losing awareness of physical needs

Theoretically, athletes and artists are more likely than others to have flow experiences. However, flow can be hiding in simple everyday activities like housekeeping or in reading a good book.

Electronic games is probably the most characteristic examples, as they have been designed to lead to flow. This is the main reason they cause strong addiction to teenagers and adults.

The following skills can help us achieve a state of flow:

  • curiosity
  • interest in life
  • persistence
  • low ego

What are your Personal Core Values?

What are your Personal Core Values? 150 150 Manolis Stratakis

What is the difference between our principles and our values?


Our principles have been pushed to us by others, from the outside world. They have been taught to us. They help us to conform to the norms of society.

Values ​​come from within us. They are all those things we consider important. Our values highlight what we stand for and ​​guide us in life, especially in difficult times. Our values largely determine our behaviors, decisions, and actions.

When our plain logic does not seem enough to help us make critical decisions, then we mobilize our “heart”. The heart always functions based on our values. When our decisions or activities are in line with our values, then an internal motivation is created and everything proceeds with ease and pleasure. We are fulfilled.

However, when we are forced to deal with something that conflicts with our values, we get a feeling that something is wrong, or we have negative emotions such as a sense of internal tension, anxiety or guilt which bring procrastination and other negative behaviors.

Below is a list of some of the most important human values. Think carefully and note which ones suit best to you. Finally, prioritize your own personal values. Of course you can always add one you might not see in the list.


Recognition by others
Avoid pressure – conflict
Self confidence
Action and variety
Ability to express
Free time
Development, growth
Spiritual stimuli
Offer to others
Risk taking
Continuous learning


My ten most important personal values (try to list them in order of importance to you):



The 4 Stages of Life

The 4 Stages of Life 2401 1850 Manolis Stratakis

(Based on the work of Carl Jung)

Carl Jung identified four distinct stages in all people’s lives. These stages have nothing to do with what we do for living, how old we are, what we have achieved or how much money we make. Also, these stages are not necessarily linear. We do not have to complete one of them so we can move to the next. We can step in or out of different stages, at different phases of our life.

The Athlete Stage – The period of Mimicry

At this stage, we are primarily concerned with our body and how we look to others. We can look at our mirror image for hours observing our external appearance.

We try things out and develop our first insecurities. We begin to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. We come into contact with our emotions and try to understand how they affect us. We feel a constant need for acceptance and validation, and there is a complete absence of personal values ​​and independent thinking. Mainly, we imitate others (parents, teachers, friends), having very little room for autonomy.

The purpose of this stage is to teach us how the world works.

The Warrior Stage: The phase of Self-discovery

Here we begin to identify where we differ from others and find our first place in society. We understand we are unique. We begin to make our own decisions and try our limits. We cautiously move out of our safety zone and experiment with new places, people and things. Progressively, we find out what works for us and what doesn’t, we keep the first and drop the second. This is how we move forward and evolve.

Here, we also strive to be better than others. We want to conquer the world. We like to accumulate things. We always want to have more. We are going through a phase of comparison and competition.

At this stage it is very important to learn our limits and limitations, to understand at what we are good and what we can do well. Life gives us endless choices, and since we cannot have them all, it is wise to stick to the ones that suit us best.

The Stage of Declaration: The age of Commitment

Here we consolidate all the knowledge and experience we have gained in the two previous stages. We now know what works for us and what doesn’t, we understand where we excel and where we suck. We know what inspires us and what holds us back. Which of our activities lead us somewhere and which take us nowhere. Which of our friends and acquaintances fill us with energy and which leave us empty.

At the same time, we realize that despite what we have achieved or acquired, we do not feel fulfilled or happy. We are looking for ways to make a difference in the world. We want to make a clear statement of who we are and what we are trying to accomplish. We feel the need to offer to others.

What we have hunted so far (money, power or material goods) will continue to appear in our lives, but are no longer as valuable to us as before. We now know that there is more to life than these. We receive them, we accept them and we are grateful for them, but we are ready to leave them anytime.

The Stage of the Spirit: The Time of Heritage

Now, we have realized what is meaningful to us and what it is important. We have worked through all of our life, we had various accomplishments and we earned all we have today. From now on, we are not interested in achieving more, since our age and energy levels do not allow it, but in ensuring that what we have gained will continue to exist and be valued after we have left.

At this stage we realize that in none of the preceding stages we got to know our true selves. We understand that we are much more than our possessions, friends, family and our entire environment.

We also understand that we are not going to linger on this planet for long. We come closer to spiritual and “divine” pursuits. We become the observers of our lives. And we are interested in the legacy we will leave.


Which of the above stages have you experienced?

In which do you live today?


How emotionally intelligent are you?

How emotionally intelligent are you? 1587 1116 Manolis Stratakis

Emotional Intelligence

According to the latest studies (mainly through the work of Daniel Goleman), the – until recently underrated – Emotional Intelligence (EQ) contributes an 80% to success in life, while IQ supplies the rest 20%. On top of that, although none of them is considered fixed and permanent, Emotional Intelligence is the one with greater margins for development and growth. Let’s check the degree of our own EQ and see how we can improve it!

Below you will find a checklist with the most important characteristics of High Emotional Intelligence. Check which of those you possess and mark them from 1-10, with as much accuracy as possible.

  1. [    ] ​Self-control and self-discipline
  2. [    ] Impulse control
  3. [    ] Openness, adaptation and embracing change
  4. [    ] Ability to perform under conditions of pressure
  5. [    ] Good understanding of our own emotions
  6. [    ] Good understanding of the emotions of others
  7. [    ] Awareness of our strengths and weaknesses
  8. [    ] Optimism
  9. [    ] Self-confidence
  10. [    ] Good communication skills
  11. [    ] Acceptance of criticism by other people
  12. [    ] Ability to disagree without causing tension
  13. [    ] Ability to offer constructive criticism
  14. [    ] Initiative taking
  15. [    ] Cultivating trust in relationships
  16. [    ] Ability to self-motivate in order to reach our goals
  17. [    ] Ability to lead and influence
  18. [    ] Resistance to prejudice
  19. [    ] Decisiveness
  20. [    ] Persuasion
  21. [    ] Patience
  22. [    ] Persistence
  23. [    ] Curiosity
  24. [    ] Ability to inspire others
  25. [    ] Cooperate without competing
  26. [    ] Ability to teamwork
  27. [    ] Maintaining control in crisis situations
  28. [    ] Control impatience
  29. [    ] Ability to focus
  30. [    ] Acceptance of defeat and failure
  31. [    ] Ability to listen before talking
  32. [    ] Acceptance of our weaknesses
  33. [    ] Personal and work ethics
  34. [    ] Ability to neutralize toxic people
  35. [    ] Giving without expecting
  36. [    ] Knowing when and feeling comfortable saying no
  37. [    ] Ability to slow down, disconnect and relax
  38. [    ] Ability of quick recovery after a mistake or failure
  39. [    ] Robust emotional vocabulary
  40. [    ] Resistance to perfectionism


Now check at which of them you score high and which you score low and write them on the table:


I score high

I want to improve


Finally, just make a note of those which seem especially important to you and you would like to improve. Let this new realization linger in your mind for the days to come.



The road to self-esteem

The road to self-esteem 3033 2147 Manolis Stratakis

The image of our self and our capabilities are going through a daily trial: by others and by ourselves. It is this image which will determine where the road to our self-esteem will take us.

All the people who know us, have formed an opinion about us. Depending on how long or how well they know us, this opinion can be rough and trivial or polished and solid. Of course, an opinion is always subjective and it can be more positive or negative depending on the person’s predisposition to us. It is also dynamic, which means it is subject to change.

It’s interesting however, that not only the others have an opinion about us, but we also have an opinion about ourselves. Everyone has an opinion about themselves. Therefore, for the overall image of our self, both our own opinion and the opinion of others matters.

Let’s take the simplified case shown in the diagram, where we have 4 variations: on the vertical axis the opinion of others, which can be positive or negative and respectively on the horizontal our own opinion, which can also be positive or negative:

  • When both parties (we and the others) see us positively, then we have confidence and our self-esteem is heading north.
  • When the others have a positive opinion about us but our view is different, we feel insecure. As the others believe in us, they accordingly have high expectations. On the contrary, we do not believe in our self and so we are afraid we will let them down. Hence, we lose steam and start to have emotions of sadness, stress and remorse.
  • In the case when the others see us negatively while we see our self positively, we can become aggressive. We try to prove what we worth (often in vain) and this causes us annoyance and anxiety.
  • Finally, when both we and the others have a negative opinion about us, we become cynical. We may feel disappointment or even hopelessness. We usually adopt a style of contempt and arrogance.

When we experience low confidence, we do not believe in our capabilities and – for exactly this reason – we do not take advantage of them. Then we produce poor results. But there is always this part of our mind which knows that we can do better and judges us for these poor results. Our poor performance is taken as proof that we do not have capabilities or we do not try enough, which lowers further our self-confidence.

A paradox which comes with low self-esteem is that the more other people praise our capabilities the more our self-esteem lowers (we go from cynical to insecure). This happens because of the increased differentiation between our opinion and the opinion of others.

However, as we travel into the road of our personal development, the opinion we have about our self obtains a positive sign. Eventually, we will enter the area of confidence and our self-esteem will keep increasing slowly but steadily.


See also our article on: An introduction to our emotions


Mind relaxation exercises

Mind relaxation exercises 150 150 Manolis Stratakis

The following exercises will help you sharpen your observation and augment your cognizance. They will help you kick away the tension of the day and relax your body and mind. Select those that suit you and perform them a few times a day.


I. Sit in a comfortable position, simply with your eyes closed for 5’

II. If there are any external sounds, just focus on them without doing anything else

III. If there are no external sounds, just focus on your breath


I. Bend and touch your toes with your fingers. If you find it difficult, just bend a little and touch your knees. Repeat after a few minutes. Was it a bit easier this time? Repeat again. Do you see how your flexibility is improved after some consecutive attempts?

II. Stretch any of the muscles in your body for 1-2 minutes. Think how you felt before and after.


I. Scan your body from head to toes for a couple of minutes. Try to identify points of interest like:

  • Pain
  • Tension
  • Relaxation

II. As you drive your car, feel your weight on the seat, your hands on the steering wheel, the position of your hands and legs.

III. Consciously observe the texture of the objects you touch with your hands

  • Hardness
  • Temperature
  • Moisture

Awareness sharpening games

Awareness sharpening games 150 150 Manolis Stratakis

Play as many of the games described below as you can. They will sharpen your awareness. They will help you gain a better perception of your body and of the environment, which is very important for a calm and pleasant life.

When brushing your teeth

Try it with your eyes closed for 1-2 minutes. Feel the contact and the overall sense of the toothbrush hair on your teeth and gums. Feel the toothpaste foam bubbles that burst in your mouth. Focus just on a single sense at a time.

In the shower

Allow your mind to have a short break by focusing on one sense at a time. Pay attention to the water drops which fall on your head and your skin, or to the sound of the water which falls on the shower floor.

On the treadmill

Switch off the iPod and close your eyes (hold the side handles if possible) and listen to the sound of the machine, your breath or the other sounds around you. Try to focus on the feeling of the particular muscles which are exercised. Let time pass without thinking anything. Just feel how your body responds.

When eating

Chew slowly your food, for at least 30-40 times each mouthful. The first times you may need to count but after a while it becomes a habit. Try to feel the taste and the texture of the food as it changes. Switch off the TV and your mobile phone, avoid to do anything else in parallel. Just focus in all the details you can detect about your food. Try it for at least a few times so you can enjoy the experience and then you decide whether you continue.

When you touch an object or a person

Try to do it in an active manner, with cognizance. Feel the sensation of the touch. The pressure on your fingers or your body. The temperature (heat or coolness) that emits, the hardness, the moisture, the energy. Sense the feelings this touch generates.

When seated

Feel your weight on the chair. Recognize the contact points. Scan your body. What are the angles of your arms, legs and pelvis? At which points do you detect some tension? What points feel totally relaxed? Lean forward or shift your body slightly at some direction. Is it better now or worse? Do some tests and gain as much awareness as you can.

When you wait

Look around you. Observe the people and the objects you see. Pay attention to all the details you can identify. If there no other objects to observe, turn your attention to yourself. Focus on your breath. How does it feel? Shallow and short? Deep and relaxed? What feelings can you detect? Anxiety and impatience? Peacefulness and boredom? Remember that whatever you feel is temporary and is ok. You gain control this way.

When in pain

Locate the pain point. Its size. What “color” is it? How much space does it take? What is its exact shape and intensity? What is its composition and temperature? Is it stable? Does it move, throb or thump? Is it acute and piercing? Is it sharp? Recognize, embrace and approve the pain!


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