The Worry Matrix: How to Decide What’s Worth Worrying About

The Worry Matrix


In my previous posts Clearing Mental Clutter and Why Worry? Take Action!, I cover the following concepts:

  • Worrying is just a form of mental clutter.
  • Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.
  • The key to less worrying is more action!

And now, here are two simple questions that will help you decide whether or not something is worth worrying about:

  1. How likely is it to happen?
  2. Is it inside, or outside, of your control?

Here it is in chart form….

The Worry MatrixClick here to print full-sized PDF.

Make sense?

This matrix is based on the Eisenhower Decision Matrix (Urgent/Not Urgent & Important/Not Important), featured by Steven Covey in his book First Things First, which I use all the time (the matrix) with my Time Management Consulting and Coaching clients.

So….what do you worry about? Is it worth it?

Does this matrix help? What other examples can you think of?

Please share with us in the comments below!

Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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    • Thanks, Seana! I’m sure there are professional psychological ways to explain why it is calming to take action on things we have control over. I’m just speaking from experience.

  1. I worry about how my child gets along at school. He is in 3rd grade now and there is not as much communication for the school or my child. I lessen the worry asking questions in different ways to start a conversation. I also will email the teacher occasionally to see how my son is behaving and being treated. Being informed helps me to worry less.

  2. It makes sense to me, Hazel. I worry about will my kids be able to take care of themselves when they are adults. Yes, it is out of my control obviously. So, to help me feel like I can do something about it, I make sure that my kids see that I take care of myself and my family. It helps. Great post, Hazel.

  3. Love your worry matrix and those two KEY questions. Some of us worry more than others. Worry almost becomes a go-to way of navigating life. Especially for those that tend to worry a lot, I can see this matrix being particularly useful. But even for those that worry less (like me), those two questions are gold. Thank you, Hazel.

    • I’m glad you like it, Linda! I do believe that worry becomes habit for some folks. See the Five Minute Rule I just made up for Liana, below.

  4. Love your matrix and hope others will too! I’m a worrier and my husband isn’t, so lately when I’m worrying about something he’s been quoting from the movie, Bridge of Spies, “Will it help? Will it make a difference?” I want to slap him when he says that, but sadly he’s right as my worrying likely won’t make a difference with the situation. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be sure to print out your chart and share it with my hubby 🙂

    • That reminds me, I need to see Bridge of Spies! I think, just as with other kinds of feeling bad, such as self-pity, that worrying is OK to indulge in for a short amount of time. Like 5 minutes out of a day. Then we need to get on with things. Take action. Be grateful. Stuff like that. So tell you husband I said “Five Minute Rule” (which I just now made up), OK? 😉

  5. I am fan of Covey’s work including his matrix. Thank you for the copy of your excellent adaptation. While I am excellent worrier it never hurts to review the principles to become even better at it.

    A review of the basics for any system never hurts as we tend to put them aside and can then find ourselves worrying over things that are outside of our control and unlikely to happen. Thanks again for the refresher. Have a most excellent day.

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