A quick win: high impact, low effort.
The Action Priority Matrix is a simple diagramming technique that helps you choose which activities to prioritize and which ones you should drop if you want to make the most of your time and opportunities.
It's useful because most of us have many more activities on our "wish lists" – whether these are bright ideas to pursue, exciting opportunities or interesting possibilities – than we have time available.
By choosing activities intelligently, you can make the very most of your time and opportunities.
However by choosing badly, you can quickly bog yourself down in time-consuming, low-yield projects that close down opportunities and stop you moving forwards.
Figure 1 below shows the basic form of the Action Priority Matrix*:
The principle behind using the tool is that you score each activity that you want to complete on two scales – firstly on the impact the activity will have, and secondly on the effort involved.
By plotting each activity on the Action Priority Matrix using these scores, you can quickly see the projects that give you the greatest returns on your efforts; and adopt the most appropriate approach for that type of activity:
Much of the "magic" of this technique comes from understanding and avoiding this crowding out effect.
A variant of this tool is the "Impact-Feasibility Matrix," which substitutes 'Feasibility' for 'Effort' on the horizontal axis. This gives a different perspective, looking at the organization's ability to deliver important changes.
To use the Action Priority Matrix, download our free worksheet and then follow these steps:
Use common sense in interpreting the lines separating the four quadrants – after all, there's only a small difference between a 4.9 impact activity defined as a "thankless task", and a 5.1 impact task defined as a "major project".
Above we're suggesting a scale from 0 to 10 for both impact and effort. However there's nothing stopping you using other scales – for example if you were ranking major projects, you might use and financial return as the scale on the impact axis, and "man days activity" on the effort axis.
* Originator unknown. Please let us know if you know who the originator is.
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