Work Prioritisation Matrix

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No matter who you work for or how big your project, knowing what to tackle first when you’ve got lots of balls in the air is tough for any project manager.

  1. What Is Impact & Effort Prioritization (Matrix)? This is a decision-making / prioritization practice for selection of ideas (feature ideas, performance ideas, growth ideas). It is a 2 by 2 matrix comparing Impact vs Effort. A variation of the matrix may consider Effort+Costs or Complexity as representation of both effort and costs.
  2. In ITSM, the most common prioritization model involves understanding impact and urgency. How IT responds, handles, and resolves any request or issue to the business and/or customers depends upon what both parties think about impact and urgency. Though you can boil these components down to a simple mathematical equation, I caution you against this.
  3. Prioritization Matrix is a fun collaborative prioritization tool to compare the relative merits of alternative actions visually. This is an extremely powerful activity which combines brainstorming, team building and action planning.

Work Prioritisation Matrix Examples

Project prioritization gives you and your team an easy-to-follow plan for the work that needs to be done, while also setting clear expectations for your client or organization. In other words, it sets everyone up for success!


Here’s how to prioritize projects in 5 easy steps:

1. Start prioritizing projects based on business value

The prioritization matrix is often used with Six Sigma system or bpm software by comparing the given choices and figuring it out the best option for prioritizing. Large organizations, as well as an individual, can use this matrix for complex as well as simple projects quite effectively.

Begin by looking at each project on your list with one simple question in mind: How will this project impact business? While you certainly want to take the organization’s bottom line into account, you also need to consider how a project will affect people. For example, will it make life easier for our customers or team members?

Keep in mind this step might require conversations with your managers, clients, or other key stakeholders. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions to ensure projects that bring the biggest bang rise to the top.

2. Set priorities by identifying urgent and important projects

Now it’s time to take the prioritization process one step further. With your list of important projects in hand, go back over it with an eye for urgency. It’s easy to confuse importance with urgency, so let’s draw a clear distinction:

  • An important project brings value to your business, whether you feel its impact today or years down the road.
  • An urgent project requires immediate attention to stay on track or keep business going.

This time management matrix Stephen Covey developed makes it easy to prioritize work into 4 simple buckets.

Here’s how to handle each priority bucket:

  • Priority 1—Urgent and important: Will a project keep business from screeching to a halt? Is there a hard deadline you can’t afford to miss? Do these projects first.
  • Priority 2—Not urgent but important: Schedule time to continue progress on projects that don’t have an immediate deadline but matter to the business just the same.
  • Priority 3—Urgent but not important: These projects may call for quick attention but don’t serve overall business goals. If work like this can’t wait, try delegating it.
  • Priority 4—Not urgent and not important: Don’t be afraid to give these projects the boot so you can free up time and resources for more worthy work.

3. Assess your own bandwidth

So what do you do if you end up with 3 urgent and important projects? If a hard deadline doesn’t declare the winner, then weigh the effort each top-priority project will take.

At TeamGantt, we like tackling bigger projects first. That way, everything feels like a quick win after that. But if clearing simple projects out of the way makes it easier for you to focus on a more complex one, go for it.

Just be aware that stacking heavyweight projects up back-to-back can be a quick drain on project energy. Try alternating big projects with small ones when possible to keep your team fresh and motivated.

4. Learn to say no to projects

Let’s set the record straight: No is not a bad word. In fact, those two little letters can make or break your ability to succeed as a project manager.

As odd as it may sound, saying yes to every single project request is a recipe for risk. Taking on more than you can handle not only runs your team into the ground—it can also leave your client fuming over missed deadlines and subpar results.

While saying no might require you to have a tough conversation, it protects your ability to deliver on the projects that matter most. And rest assured: You can turn a client or stakeholder down without closing the door completely. It might simply mean delegating tasks to another team that has the resources to get the work done on time.

5. Be flexible with the project prioritization process

If you’ve spent any time in project management, you know this: Things change. A project that was once urgent and important might be trumped by an emergency that pops up. A stakeholder may decide a project doesn’t bring business value anymore. A key player could get sick unexpectedly, putting a dent in your team’s bandwidth.

Prioritization Matrix Template

As project manager, you can either bend or you can break. It’s your job to stay alert and constantly reassess project priorities so you can adjust your team’s focus as needed. Learn why having a plan can help you with that.

Prioritize work quickly and easily with TeamGantt

The hardest part of the prioritization process is figuring out what’s worth your team’s time and committing to only the most valuable, urgent, and important projects. Once you’ve decided where to focus your energy, you’re ready to put together a plan and start knocking out work.

And that’s where TeamGantt can help lighten your load. With TeamGantt, you can stay nimble as priorities shift—and keep your team and stakeholders informed—so nothing falls through the cracks and everyone’s happy with the outcome.

Want to take TeamGantt for a spin? Sign up today, and try your first project free!

Prioritizing Your Work: The 4-Square Method

Last week, our prioritization blog focused on the Hoshin Star Technique. To recap, this method allows you to compare each of your tasks head-to-head with one another in order to determine which task is the most important. To read the Hoshin Star Technique Blog post, click here.

This blog post will focus on the ‘4-Square’ method of prioritization, which is also referred to as the Eisenhower Grid. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” This quote is the inspiration for the Eisenhower grid, a system that helps you decide the urgency and importance of different tasks, and prioritize them accordingly.

Example Prioritization Matrix For Accounting

To complete the 4-square, create a 2 X 2 grid, with the vertical axis labeled Not Important and Important, and the horizontal axis labeled Urgent and Not Urgent, as shown below.

Given your list of tasks, place each of them in the grid according to urgency and importance.For example, say your list included the following:

  • Fix furnace
  • Telemarketer phone call
  • Award applications
  • Check social media
  • Create new brand/logo
  • Long-term strategy
  • RFP Meeting today
  • Random interruptions
  • Sort junk mail
  • Clean office
  • Distractions

Separate your list of tasks into the four categories. Once you have your tasks separated, plug them into the grid. As shown in the first figure, each square has a corresponding number, and this is the order in which you should prioritize your tasks.

The figure below shows the list of tasks separated into the 4 squares. Obviously, fixing the furnace or a call with your supervisor has higher urgency and importance than sorting junk mail or cleaning your office. As shown in the table, each square has a corresponding number, and this is the order in which you should prioritize your tasks. Focus on the most urgent and important tasks first in Square I, and then move to squares II, III and IV. This does not mean that you should not spend time on not-urgent tasks, but in a high-stress situation, this method can be important in determining what needs to be completed first.

In some situations, the Roman Numerals in the squares can be replaced by the following actions: Do, Decide, Delegate, and Delete. In this case, your tasks are still separated into the original four categories. However, the following action item changes. The tasks that are important and urgent: DO. Do them today, or as soon as possible. For tasks that are important and not urgent: DECIDE. Decide a specific time in the future that this task will be completed, as it will eventually be Important and Urgent.

For tasks that are not Important but urgent: DELEGATE. These tasks are often e-mails or phone calls that need to be answered by someone, but it doesn’t always have to be YOU. Finally, for tasks that are not important and not urgent: DELETE. These tasks are not significant or central to your business goals. Granted, these tasks can be completed during personal time, or when pressure levels are lower, but in a high-stress situation, these tasks are just not relevant.

This method of prioritization allows you to determine which of your tasks are most important and most urgent, and act accordingly. As mentioned in our previous blog, this is just one example of many different prioritization techniques. You must find the system that works best for you, and this will allow you to prioritize, create a plan of action, and execute.


Do you use any other methods to prioritize your tasks? Let us know in the comments below!

Melissa H. • April 14, 2015

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