NEHA April 2024 Journal of Environmental Health

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States


The Eisenhower Matrix


Not Urgent


Urgent and important Action: Do immediately Urgent but not important Action: Delegate

Important but not urgent Action: Schedule for later Neither urgent nor important Action: Eliminate

Not Important

References National Environmental Health Association. (2020). COVID-19 environmental health workforce rapid needs assessment report . content/uploads/2020/11/NEHA_COVID- 19_EH_Workforce_Rapid_Assessment_ Report.pdf Westcarr-Gray, S., Taggart, L., Weiler, E., Havens, J., Oliver, P., & Gilkey, D.P. (2023). Needs assessment of environmental health professionals in Montana: A post- COVID-19 perspective. Journal of Environ- mental Health , 86 (2), 12–21.

• Tasks that are neither urgent nor important In many presentations, the categories are presented as a grid with recommendation actions (Table 1). So, the suspected foodborne illness investi- gation is important and urgent. Get in the car and get that done. The fee proposal is important but not urgent. Set aside quiet time to get that done well. The request to immediately return calls might feel urgent to the caller but might not be important to long-term goals or crit- ical outcomes. And finally, the most powerful quadrant of all, items that are neither urgent nor impor- tant should be eliminated . In this bucket goes checking social media, unproductive meetings, managing copied and blind copied (i.e., cc and bcc emails), perfectionism on low-impact tasks, over-planning, over-react- ing, and stressing out. Only you know the right category. Dele- gate or redirect tasks that are urgent but not really important. Related Practices That Help Write it down. Writing out a task is extremely beneficial (and nothing beats a cheap college- ruled composition book). It reduces anxiety and gives structure. When you mark the item done—a checkbox in the left-page margin is

my method—you have proof of the achieve- ment. I have tried apps (e.g., Todoist, Micro- soft Tasks) and nothing feels better than a sharp pencil and a turned page. For those people who can do it, check email and voicemail just twice each day. Turn o‡ (or turn down) notifications, which allows you to focus and avoid the trap of mul- titasking. Multitasking, as you know, is not really possible. Build and follow a structured routine. Ask for help when you need it. Maintain your personal network and talk it out or keep a journal. Moving through the problem with a colleague so often sparks ideas. Timeboxing is a technique where you put a limit on the amount of time you or your team will dedicate to a task or project. The phrase, “perfect is the enemy of good,” conveys that most tasks do not require perfection. At some point, there are diminishing returns on sus- tained e‡orts. And lastly, if you are among those people feeling stressed today or if your coworker is feeling the pressure—give yourselves a break, help each other out, and be kind. Corresponding Author: Darryl Booth, General Manager, Environmental Health, Accela, 2633 Camino Ramon #500, San Ramon, CA 94583. E-mail:


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We will be hosting a Grand Rounds seminar on April 10—Optimizing Environmental Public Health Practice With GIS. The seminar aims to increase knowledge and understanding of GIS systems and how they can support our programs. The seminar is geared toward students but is open to all. Learn more at

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