You Should Use a Decision Matrix to Prioritize Your to-Do List

As much as we want to accomplish everything on our never-ending to-do lists, we also realize that there are only a certain number of hours in a day – or enough energy to work. When you don’t know how to prioritize all the tasks before you in order of importance (or what to delegate to someone else), it’s time to create a “decision matrix”. As Amy Drader, a consultant at Growth Partners Consulting , suggests, a decision matrix can help you prioritize work “by urgency and level of effort.”

How to use the decision matrix to prioritize tasks

Matrix solutions can help you narrow down the number of options to one – especially according Dreydera , when the volume of work tasks, standing in front of you, makes you feel paralyzed due to “depression”.

To plot the matrix, draw a baseline graph, labeling the horizontal x-axis with the word “effort” and the vertical y-axis with the word “urgency.” Write “low” at the point where the two lines meet, and “high” at the top of the y-axis and at the right end of the x-axis. ( Click here to see the visual .) This will help you divide the graph into quadrants:

  • High urgency, low effort
  • High urgency, great effort
  • Low urgency, high effort
  • Low urgency, low effort

To complete the decision matrix, list all of your cases; one by one, consider how important it is to get a specific task done right away , and how much work it will take to get it done. Then, list each task in the appropriate quadrant according to their ranking in terms of effort and urgency.

High urgency items get priority

If the task requires urgency and does not require a lot of effort, do it now. Don’t think about it, just do it. If the task is urgent and requires a lot of effort, estimate how long it will take to complete it, and then set aside the allotted amount of time to complete it. If the task is not urgent and does not require much effort, delegate it to someone else. If the task is not urgent, but requires a lot of effort, make a long-term plan for how to complete it.

Adding a decision matrix creation to your to-do list may seem counterintuitive, but the time to sketch it is worth it to understand what needs to be done right now, what can wait, and what can be delegated to someone else. And, as Drader writes, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

“Prioritization is like a muscle, she says . “The more you flex it, the stronger it gets and the lighter it gets.”

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