Stress & Anxiety

The Motivational Matrix

This simple tool helps me address anxious feelings with logic — and put my priorities in their proper place.

It’s not a new idea, the urgency matrix you see at the left, but it works. It can prioritize your ADHD life. If I were using it for that purpose, for short-term thinking (attacking a day’s tasks, say), I would draw out the quadrants just as you see them, and plug my tasks into the appropriate quadrant. I’d begin my day by focusing on the “urgent and important” tasks.

I find the matrix motivational in a larger sense. Most of the time, I want to keep things out of the urgent and important quadrant. If I scare myself a little bit with the possibility of too many “urgent” tasks, I no longer procrastinate.

As I struggle with anxiety, this tool takes on a different purpose. My anxiety tells me that everything is an emergency, and dumps every little thing into the urgent and important quadrant. I don’t let it do that anymore.

[Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Is An Everyday Occasion]

I use this matrix every time my anxiety pops up, telling me that I need to be afraid of failing, or that I should be worried about a negative outcome. The matrix helps me frame the manufactured emergency of the moment with logic. It is a simple concept, and easy to picture in my mind. The only quadrant I need to think about is the urgent and important one. Does the thing I’m worrying about belong in that quadrant? No? Then I don’t have to think about it now.

I breathe slowly and reassure myself that I’ve made the right decision. It’s important to get accustomed to a feeling of peace, in order to begin to accept peace as normal.

6 Comments & Reviews

  1. Prioritization has always been a problem for me. How do I know which tasks I should put in which category. I’m not kidding, I’m just that dense.

    1. To answer your question, let’s consider your day. If you have 4 things to do; 1. mail a check that must be postmarked NLT today by 5pm. 2. Drop off dry cleaning before the end of the week 3. Pick up meds 4. Pick up a cover for the BBQ grill.
      You’d place them in the following categories based on the chart; 1. Urgent and Important
      2. Urgent but not Important
      3. Important but not Urgent
      4. Not Urgent or Important

      Hope this helped!

      1. I can get the difference between urgent/non urgent, but important/not important always confuses me. Why would I be adding something to my to-do list if it wasn’t something I have to do? If it’s not important it doesn’t belong on my list at all.

      2. Hi,

        I see the non-urgent things as “when you have a chance to get to this”. For me, that would be filing. Or washing my car – It’s something I do need to do, but the world won’t end if I put it off and tend to more important things. I hope that’s helpful.

  2. Thank you for this. I think it will be helpful. I made a paper with a 4 squared table with the above-named categories as headers in each box and will see how it goes! My problem is that as much as I detest clutter, I have stacks of paperwork and it all gets lost in stacks. Then I feel I can’t breathe and I walk away from all of it or place it out of sight so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Then I completely lose things in these stacks I’ve hidden. 🙁

Leave a Reply