The Action Priority Matrix

Do you feel like you are as efficient as possible when at work? If you are like most people, the answer to that question is a definitive ‘no’. Most people, no matter what position they hold, feel that they could get more out of the work day. In order to move in a more efficient direction, consider using the Action Priority Matrix to pick out the right activities day after day. By working on the right things, in the right order, you should get more done and see more achievement in the long run.

It is helpful to have a priority matrix available because you likely don’t have time to do everything you want to get done in a day. If you had unlimited time available, you wouldn’t need a matrix – you would just do your tasks one by one until they were all completed. Of course, that isn’t the world we live in. You are going to have to pick between tasks at some point, which is where the Action Priority Matrix comes into the picture.

Action Priority Matrix

Creating a Grid

To build the platform for your action priority matrix, you will need to create a grid with a vertical and horizontal axis. The vertical axis will serve at the measure of impact that a given activity has on your organization, while the horizontal axis will represent the effort required to complete the task. Each axis is going to be set up in ascending order, meaning low impact activities will be at the bottom with high impact activities at the top. Likewise, activities that require little effort will be placed on the left, with those activities that demand great effort landing on the right.

If you would like, you can create a numbering system to use with this grid. For instance, you may wish to use scores from 1-10 for both impact and effort. An activity which requires minimal effort will only rank as a 1 or 2, while an extremely demanding project could be a 10. The scores work the same way on the impact axis, with low impact jobs coming in around 1 or 2 and greatly impactful projects registering a 9 or 10.

Placing Your Projects

Now that your grid has been created, you can go ahead and place a variety of activities into the appropriate spot. Make a list of all activities that are currently ‘on your plate’, and mark them on the grid in a spot which you feel is accurate. It may take a bit of time to think through each activity to grade it accurately, but this step is essential for the overall success of the matrix. Once you have completed the task of assigning each project a spot in the grid, you can move on to the next step.

Identifying the Quadrants

For the purposes of the Action Priority Matrix, your grid is going to be broken up into four quadrants. By determining which quadrant each project lands in, you can start to see which you should prioritize and which should be moved to the back burner. The four quadrants are listed below.

Quick Wins

These are projects that end up in the top left quadrant of your matrix. In other words, they are jobs which offer a high level of impact while only requiring a minimal amount of effort. Of course, you are likely to enjoy these projects, as they can impact the company greatly without requiring you to work well into the night. If all of your projects landed in the Quick Wins category, you would be quite happy with your day to day job. Most people will want to check these projects off quickly because they offer such a significant reward without huge time or effort demands.

Major Projects

Again here, we find projects that come in high on the impact scale. However, these also rank highly on the effort scale as well, as they are going to require a notable investment of time to complete properly. Occupying the upper right portion of your matrix, those projects which land in this area are likely to take up most of your time on a day to day basis. It makes sense to focus on these jobs, as they have a large impact on your company. Ignoring these tasks can cost you in the long run as they begin to add up.

Thankless Tasks

Dropping down to the bottom right of the matrix, we find the jobs that no one wants to do – the Thankless Tasks. These duties do not provide much in the way of an impact on the company, but they do require a lot of time and effort. It is likely that you will attempt to delegate some of the jobs that fill up this quadrant, but it might not always be possible to do so. There are two schools of thought with regard to Thankless Tasks. Some people like to get them over with as quickly as possible, while others put them off for as long as they can. Whichever way you go, remember that these jobs still need to be done, even if you don’t like them.

Fill Ins

The final category in the matrix, the Fill Ins, are jobs which are low in both impact and required effort. As the name would suggest, these are good tasks to perform when you are in between jobs on other projects. These items do need to be checked off, but they aren’t going to make a substantial difference either way in the long run. Keep these tasks off to the side and have them available when you have a hole in your day to fill.

The Action Priority Matrix is a simple tool, yet it can help you to effectively organize your day. Once you have a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish during your day, and which tasks have the greatest importance, it should be easy to plan your schedule accordingly. With any luck, implementing this tool will allow you to save time in short order.

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