Task Priority Matrix

There’s nothing more satisfying than checking off work on your to-do list. But before you attack your task list, you want to learn how to prioritize tasks.

The Action Priority Matrix is a simple tool that helps you choose which activities to prioritize, and which activities to delegate or eliminate. This helps you make best use of the opportunities available to you. The matrix has four quadrants: Quick wins. Thankless tasks. The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks. Eisenhower famously said of the matrix. Priority Matrix includes features to set task due dates and sync with your calendar, upload and share files, communicate through the in-app chat, and many more. Priority Matrix already has the Eisenhower Template and much more loaded into the system; however, if you are not a fan of what they have, you can customize your own templates.

Prioritizing tasks helps you:

  • Get the most critical work done first.
  • Better utilize scarce time and team resources.
  • Effectively manage your team’s workload.

Many software tools help you capture, prioritize, and organize your work — from simple to-do lists to visual Kanban boards. But, irrespective of the tool, you need to learn how to prioritize tasks at work.

In this article, you’ll learn about nine practical tips about prioritizing work. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Ready to get started, let’s begin.

1. Make A Master Task List

Task requests come from various sources — your boss, teammates, colleagues, partners, and clients. Task requests can also come from multiple channels — emails, slack messages, or even a watercooler talk.

You need a way to capture all these requests. Or you’ll end up forgetting some.

It’s embarrassing when someone reminds you of that task. Plus, taking up the task request then, can mess up the rest of your schedule.

This is why you need a way to capture all your work in one place. It could be a notebook, a to-do list app on your phone, or the task backlog in your project management tool.

Once you have a list of tasks ready, you can easily categorize and prioritize them.

2. Categorize Tasks Using The 4Ds Of Time Management

Before you can prioritize tasks, you need to categorize each task in your master list into one of these four categories:

  • Do the task now
  • Defer the task to a later time
  • Delegate the task to someone else
  • Delete the task from your list

The “Do, Defer, Delegate, Delete” framework is also called the 4Ds of time management.

You can do few tasks on your task list quickly. They take less than a minute or two. And there’s no dependency on anyone else. Go ahead and do these to trim down your to-do list.

A few other tasks can be done by your subordinates or team members. They have the skills and the necessary information to complete the work. Delegate this work to trim down your task list further.

You’ll also find some tasks that you don’t need to do anymore. They have been on your task list forever. Or, compared to the effort involved, they provide very little value. Delete these from your list.

The only work that you’re left with now is the deferred tasks. You cannot do, delegate, or delete these. This is the work that needs prioritizing.

Next, let’s look at three ways to prioritize tasks.

3. Prioritizing Tasks Using Eisenhower Power Matrix

The Eisenhower four-quadrant, power matrix is a straightforward framework for prioritizing work.

Dwight Eisenhower — the 34th president of the United States — conceptualized the power matrix. But it was Steven Covey who made it popular in his best-seller — The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”.

The power matrix framework helps you answer two questions. Which tasks are important? And which tasks can be eliminated altogether?

To prioritize work using this framework, put each task into one of the four quadrants:

  • Urgent and important
  • Important, but not urgent
  • Urgent, but not important
  • Neither urgent nor important

Urgent and important tasks have the highest priority. Not doing these asap will have negative consequences.

Important but not urgent tasks will take up most of your time. Avoid neglecting these until the last minute to prevent unbalanced schedules and workloads.

Urgent but not important tasks can be delegated to your team. You don’t have to do them yourself.

Finally, you can eliminate tasks that are neither urgent nor important.

4. Prioritize Project Tasks Using The MoSCoW Method

Budget and time constraints are big challenges in project management. These challenges often directly affect the project’s outcomes.

The MoSCoW method helps prioritize work based on outcomes. Thus, it’s most effective when managing projects.

It was developed by Dai Clegg, a software engineer, during his tenure at Oracle.

This method helps stakeholders and clients understand the significance of each outcome in the final project delivery.

To use MoSCoW prioritization, divide your project outcomes into one of the four buckets:

  • Must have: Outcomes without which the entire project is considered a failure
  • Should have: Outcomes that are not as critical as must-have outcomes but still important
  • Could have: Outcomes that can be delivered when you have budget or time remaining for final project delivery
  • Won’t have: Outcomes that won’t be delivered with the project

Once you’ve categorized the outcomes above, you can prioritize tasks that support these outcomes.

5. Prioritize Tasks Using Relative Priorities

Using the 4D framework, Power matrix, and MoSCoW method helps. But what if you still have lots of tasks that are important but not urgent? Or tasks that support must-have outcomes?

How do you prioritize tasks that have the same priorities?

The answer is simple — using relative priority. Relative priority works by weighing the importance of each task compared to other tasks on the list. Then ordering the tasks based on this weight.

For example, let’s say you have ten work-items. Assign a number from 1-10 to each task. And in no time, you’ll have a prioritized list of work.

But, how do you decide which task is more important?

Two straightforward ways are to order work by their due dates and by dependencies. Tasks with an earlier deadline have a higher priority. Also, tasks that block other work from starting need to be prioritized first.

Next, let’s look at three techniques that’ll help you breeze through your personal, prioritized task list.

6. Focus On The Most Important Tasks Of The Day

Leo Babuta of Zen Habits popularized the Most Important Tasks (MITs) method. This method can help if you struggle to get work done even after prioritizing them.

To use the MITs method, choose up to three tasks that you want to get done today. These are your most important tasks. Complete these first.

Then if time permits, you can take up other miscellaneous work. This extra work is a bonus. You only work on bonus tasks if you finish the MITs.

You can consider your day successful even if you just do your MITs.

7. Do The Most Unwanted Task First

But what if you struggle to get through your MITs?

Thanks to Bryan Tracy’s method and his book — Eat That Frog! — you’ll have an answer in the following few paragraphs.

But what do frogs have in common with Task prioritization?

Mark Twain has the answer:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

Once you’ve eaten the frog, there’s nothing worse you’ll have to tackle for the rest of the day. Replace frogs with tasks, and you’ll have your answer.

Most people put off work because they don’t like to do it. And not because it’s less important. Bryan Tracy recommends you get unwanted work out of your way first. Then getting through the rest of the work becomes a breeze.

8. Prioritize Tasks Using The Pareto Principle

Priority

If you hate frogs like most people, the Pareto Principle is another popular way to blast through your daily task list. It’s also known as the 80/20 rule or the “law of the vital few.”

According to this principle, 80% of your day’s success depends on 20% of the tasks.

Priority Matrix Examples

It’s tricky to identify the 20% work. The best way is to look at your MITs and pick one task you feel will make your day a success. For example, it could be a task that provides the most value or takes up the most time.

Once you’ve identified the task, focus on getting that one task done.

Together the Pareto Principle and Bryan Tracy’s methods will help you blast through your daily task list.

9. Review & Revise Task Priorities

Do you know what the most frustrating thing about managing work is?

You’re halfway through your work plan, and suddenly tasks and/or priorities change. There’s little you can do with this change. It’s a risk that you have to live with.

Because of these changes, it’s critical to review and revise project task priorities often.

If budget, resource, or time constraints change, revise project priorities using the 4Ds framework, Eisenhower’s Power Matrix, or the MoSCoW method.

And if short-term priorities change, review and revise your relative task priorities.

Task Priority Matrix

Conclusion

Armed with the nine tips in this article, you’re now ready to tackle work and bring clarity to your team.

Speaking of clarity, you may want to check out Toggl Plan. It’s a beautifully simple work management tool that provides clear visual cues about what needs to be done, by whom, and when. For managers, Toggl Plan comes with easy, drag-and-drop timelines that make planning work a breeze.

Start your free Toggl Plan team trial now.


In order to import your Microsoft To Do tasks into Priority Matrix, please authorize read-access to your Microsoft account. We only require read access, as we don't need to make changes to your tasks, only read their content.

First of all, you need a Priority Matrix account. It takes one minute! Or you can sign in if you already have one.

How does the Microsoft To Do connector work?

Once you, or your administrator, connect Priority Matrix with Microsoft To Do, we will import all the relevant tasks, and create a new Priority Matrix project which contains links to the original data. That way you can prioritize the external tasks and open them if needed, but you don't need to duplicate work.

Best of all, whenever there are changes to the original Microsoft To Do tasks, they sync automatically into Priority Matrix, without you having to move a finger.

What if I change my mind?

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If you decide that you don't want your Microsoft To Do data showing up in your Priority Matrix account, you can click the disconnect button and choose between simply stopping the data sync, or completely erase any reference from Priority Matrix.

In any case, Priority Matrix does not modify your Microsoft To Do data, since we only require read access to provide this functionality. We are considering adding 2-way sync to this connector so that you can complete an item on PM and see that change in Microsoft ToDo, but this is not available yet. If you think this would be useful to you, please let us know.

Are there other connectors?

Work Priority Matrix

We're glad you ask! Yes, there are other connectors, and more coming soon. Send us a message if you have a specific request.