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.


Happiness Cocktail

The Happiness Cocktail

The Happiness Cocktail 2560 1789 Manolis Stratakis

Is there a recipe that determines how happy we will be?

Why some people seem to be happy while others aren’t? What is exactly that makes us happy? Is it money, beauty, health, education or genes? Unquestionably all of these play a role.

Do we have a saying in our personal happiness?

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research in identical and fraternal twins have shown that all people are born with a baseline of happiness, they come to life with some initial value. This initial value refers to the temperamental and affective traits everyone inherits from their parents and for every person is different. Higher in some, lower in others.

However, the genetic set point does not exclusively determine the overall level of our happiness, but only about 50% of it.

But wait, there are two more factors which play a determining role:

  1. the critical events happening in our life (positive or negative) and
  2. our own, deliberate, intentional activity: our actions

Therefore, in one hand we have what life brings us and on the other, what we do with that. What happens to us and how we tackle it.

Most people believe that circumstances, such as our life events or our wealth and health, is the single greatest factor influencing our happiness. But as it turns out from the theory of Adaptation to Pleasure and other positive psychology theories, external circumstances contribute only around 10% to our overall happiness. On the other hand, the way we handle these circumstances influences our life by 40%, that’s 4 times more!

So life deals certain cards for us, but it is up to us how we play the game.

Looking at it at another angle, we see that genes and circumstances account for a 60%, while our own actions account for the rest 40%. So, we have a 60% which is not under our control and a whopping 40% which is under our influence. Our thoughts, behaviors and actions control this 40%!

Happiness = Genes + Circumstances + Intentional Actions

As everything we consider important, our personal happiness requires some effort, enough commitment and absolute consistency.

So, where do we start?

A few first steps which will lead you towards this goal can be the following:

  • Understand what is good for your body and mind
  • Reduce overthinking
  • Stop social comparison
  • Invest time in your personal development
  • Cultivate your relations with people who are already there
  • Strengthen your resilience
  • Place goals and go after them
  • Increase your flow experiences

Last but not least, begin to feel happy, even if – at the moment – you aren’t! Just like when you start a journey and you still haven’t arrived at your destination.


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

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?


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


SMART goal setting: do you set goals or just exercise your wishful thinking?

SMART goal setting: do you set goals or just exercise your wishful thinking? 3408 2381 Manolis Stratakis

Sometimes we believe we have placed some goals in our life, while we are just doing some wishful thinking.

The SMART goal setting methodology can help ensure that our goals are actually… goals! It states that every goal should have all the following characteristics:

  • Specific (also simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (also meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (also agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (also reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time bound (also time-based, time limited, timely, time-sensitive)

It’s even better when they are SMARTER:

  • Evaluated
  • Reviewed

Our place in life changes daily, the same is true with our needs and wishes. Consequently, every so often it is good to evaluate and review our goals.

If we think we have set some goals without having applied the SMART filter, most probably they are not goals. They are simply wishes!

 See also our article on: Learn about how.. you learn!

Learn about how.. you learn!

Learn about how.. you learn! 3408 2381 Manolis Stratakis

The Four Stages of Learning

Our learning process goes through four stages. In the initial stage, the Unconscious Ignorance, something is completely unknown to us. We are not even aware of its existence. For example, you do not know that there exists a particular type of insect deep in the Amazon Forest. Then a friend mentions about this insect and tells you its name. It’s called examplinsect.

You just entered the next learning stage which is that of Conscious Ignorance. You know this insect exists, you know its name, but still you have no idea about it. Here you have some awareness. You know that you don’t know anything about it. A few weeks later, you happen to watch a documentary about wildlife and you learn a lot of things about the examplinsect, its colors, what it eats, where it lives, how it mates, etc.

You have just moved into the third stage, that of Conscious Knowledge, in which you will remain for a while. If you find all this stuff interesting you may seek more information resources about the examplinsect in the web, in books, etc. This will reinforce your knowledge and let you move to the final stage, that of Unconscious Knowledge. In that stage you no longer put any effort to refresh your memory. All – or most – information is retrieved easily when required.

The same goes with competence and skill. There was a time when you were very young, when you first saw a bicycle. Before that moment you were in the stage of Unconscious Ignorance or Unconscious Incompetence (you didn’t know there were bicycles and even more you didn’t know how to ride one). At the very moment you saw your first bicycle, you entered the stage of Conscious Incompetence. You learned that there is this magical toy called a bicycle and some people actually know how to play with it. But you were not one of those people.

Months went by, your birthday comes and your father walks in carrying a big box. Guess what? A little bicycle! Wait, you need to be careful! Remember you are still in Stage 2. You unbox the bicycle and you find that you can sit on it with no prior knowledge. Well done, you are getting there! Then you try to push the pedals but that’s a bit confusing, isn’t it? You press with both feet and nothing happens. Progressively you figure it out. Practice makes perfect! In a few days you are unstoppable. You can move around the furniture of the house with remarkable agility. Congratulations, you have entered into the third stage, that of Conscious Competence.

While in this stage, you know you can ride a bicycle but still you need to think before you perform certain actions like turning, braking or balancing. And then when you go out in the street or in the park, there are new challenges to face like uphills and downhills, pedestrians, mud puddles, other bicycles, cats and dogs, or even cars and lorries.

But if you keep riding your bicycle and get out of your comfort zone often, it is a matter of time to master it. At that point you don’t have to think before braking or turning. It just happens automatically and effortlessly. Balancing on the bike has become your second nature. You are now into the last step of the competence ladder, you are equipped with the superpowers of Unconscious Knowledge and Unconscious Competence.



Stage 1: We are Unconsciously Unskilled – we don’t know that we don’t have this skill, or that we need to learn it. We don’t know that we don’t know.

Stage 2: We are Consciously Unskilled – we know that we don’t have this skill. We know that we don’t know.

Stage 3: We are Consciously Skilled – we know that we have this skill. We know that we know.

Stage 4: We are Unconsciously Skilled – we don’t know that we have this skill (it just seems easy). We don’t know that we know.

An introduction to our emotions

An introduction to our emotions 3408 2381 Manolis Stratakis

Basic Emotions

In this article we make an attempt to understand the basics of our emotions, the very essence of our psyche.

The following eight emotions are considered the basic ones, from which all others are produced:

  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Anger
  • Anticipation

As specific basic emotions mix together, new secondary and tertiary emotions emerge!



The Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik with his excellent work on emotions, has produced this great depiction, showing the interrelationships among them:

Spend some time to study this diagram and try to understand how they interact and interrelate. This will increase dramatically your emotional vocabulary and give you lots of self-awareness!

See also our article on: Learn about how.. you learn!

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