The Action Priority Matrix is a tool that enables you to make the most of your time by helping you choose the right tasks and opportunities to pursue.
The world is full of opportunities. Unfortunately, there is never enough time to pursue all of these opportunities. Because of this, you need to choose your opportunities and tasks wisely, so you make the most of your time.
You want to ensure that you choose those tasks that will give you the most significant return on your time investment. You also want to avoid those tasks that don’t move you forward.
The Action Priority Matrix is a simple tool which can help ensure you’re spending your time working on the right tasks in the correct order.
By working on the right things consistently, you’ll experience improved results over the long-term.
As you can see, the matrix is a two-by-two grid. On the x-axis we have the effort needed to complete a task, going from low to high. On the y-axis, we have the impact on results completing a task will have.
To use the tool, you score your tasks or to-do list firstly by effort and then by their impact. You then place each task on the grid according to its score.
The four quadrants are defined as follows:
These are tasks requiring little effort but which have a high impact. As such, they are very attractive because they have high returns for a small outlay of energy.
Completing quick wins should be your highest priority, and you should concentrate on these tasks as much as you can.
These are tasks that can give you significant results (impact), but unlike quick wins, they require you to invest a lot of time into them.
These types of tasks should be your next priority after quick wins. You’ll need to invest a lot of time into these projects to get them done but be careful not to let these tasks consume all of your time.
These are tasks that require a low effort for you to perform, but they also have little impact on your results.
As hinted at by the name, you use these tasks to fill in your time. You should only perform these tasks if you have the time available after working on your quick wins and major projects.
Consider delegating these tasks if you have that as an option. Alternatively, consider dropping these tasks altogether if possible.
These are tasks which have a low impact but which still require a high effort.
You should aim to completely eliminate these tasks, as they are not worth your time to complete.
To use the model, follow these four steps:
Let’s take a look at some examples of tasks that fall into different categories within the matrix.
Graphically, these can be mapped to our matrix as follows:
We have an Action Priority Matrix Template available for you to download to help you better prioritize your time. You can download it as a PDF here.
The model doesn’t just have to be used to prioritize your personal task list. You can also use it in a variety of other ways.
The Action Priority Matrix is a simple decision-making tool which can help you to prioritize opportunities and tasks.
It works by categorizing tasks into four compartments: quick wins, major projects, fill ins, and thankless tasks.
You should perform quick wins immediately. Most of the rest of your time you should dedicate to major projects. Only perform fill ins if you have spare time, and try to drop all thankless tasks.
If you use the matrix repeatedly then over time, as you prioritize what’s important, you should see your results improve.