How to make impactful things

The best ideas on prioritization and decisions on what to do next.

Priority Matrix

What a priority matrix is

A priority matrix is a management tool for determining the development vector where priorities are visually divided into four (or more) quadrants.

There are matrices for personal time management and complex business projects. Most of them have derived from the Eisenhower matrix created to manage personal tasks.

A prioritized backlog visually divided into 2x2 matrix in Ducalis.io

When to use a priority matrix

Use an action priority matrix when you have limited resources and you want to distribute them rationally to maximize performance and ROI.

Placing backlog tasks into four quadrants will help you visualize their impact on the main business objectives. Focus the team efforts on one of the four quadrants to have a clear understanding of where you’re heading, what results, and when to expect.

How the quadrants work

One of the most efficient and easy to use is the 2x2 matrix. It consists of two evaluation criteria: one positive (e.g., Value, Impact, or Revenue) and one negative(e.g., Effort, Costs, or Risk).

Tasks evaluated by the criteria are divided into four quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1—high positive score and low negative score.
    This quadrant is often called Quick Wins, and its tasks are low-hanging fruit that will bring you positive results immediately. Most likely, you should do these tasks first.
  • Quadrant 2—high positive score and high negative score.
    Here are your Major Projects that won’t bring immediate results but are strategically valuable and should be considered on your roadmap.
  • Quadrant 3—low positive score and low negative score.
    These are so-called Fill-Ins—cheap solutions with no significant impact. These tasks should be further discussed and implemented only when you have extra resources.
  • Quadrant 4—low positive score and high negative score.
    These are Thankless Tasks. They bring little to no value and cost you a lot. Delete them or reconsider the solution to become more valuable.

How to create and use a priority matrix

1. Think of what is currently important to your business to come up with appropriate criteria.

Do you have deadlines, and time is critical? Or you must avoid risks at all costs?

Two criteria are enough for a fast and simple prioritization. Yet, they aren’t enough for complex projects where you must consider and juggle multiple stages of user behavior or business objectives. We in Ducalis.io estimate all the vital elements for our product and just filter the matrix by the criteria we need more focus on at some point in time.

We hide some criteria to consider tasks influencing only the objective important now.

2. Decide on the score range.

What numbers will your team use when estimating the criteria?

Each criterion should be evaluated by the same numbers with prescribed interpretation. We use numbers from 0 to 3 where 0—no impact, 1—low impact, 2—medium impact, 3—high impact.

We use criteria tooltips so that we don't have to keep in mind what they and the scores mean.

3. Estimate all the necessary tasks together with the team.

Who takes part in the project and can bring a unique perspective to the table? Does the project require only engineers or designers and copywriters’ efforts as well?

Considering each task by the whole team strengthens your shared understanding and gives the best prioritization results. In our team, managers evaluate feature Reach and Revenue, engineers and UX/UI—Development Time, and everybody must estimate Activation, Retention, and two product-specific criteria, Speed and Collaboration.

Most of the criteria we evaluate together to keep our shared understanding solid, and specific ones we leave to experts.

4. Study and discuss the prioritization results.

Why have these features made it to the top? Do you all agree they are most valuable now and must be implemented?

Never take the prioritization result into work unquestioningly. Prioritization is a tool to help you make the right decisions and not make them instead of you. Discuss your top priorities with the team at the planning meeting and make sure you all understand what must be done, why this way, and why it’s important.

To Sum Up

A priority matrix is simple and efficient. You can make it far more powerful by using automation tools. Ducalis.io allows you to create a complex prioritization framework you can use both as a weighted decision matrix and action priority matrix and switch the criteria focus in no time.

Try our matrix templates. Free to sign up and free to use. No credit cards. Just jump in and prioritize for your growth.

How a Project Manager Started Setting Priorities with the Task Prioritization Matrix for Team 

Suppose you have lots of feature-related tasks and have no clue where to begin, your decision on what to do first will impact the entire company. The solution here is to use a prioritization matrix, which means evaluating every task against a set of criteria—quick, easy, helpful, etc.—and tackling the highest-rated ones first. However, the problem is in the details! So, let's take a closer look at them on the example of John, our hypothetical project manager.

This article will look at how to use the prioritization matrix use, how to involve your team, and how Ducalis.io can help.

This is where the story of John begins

In the picture below, you can see John, who is just sitting there brooding. This story is about John, but let's be honest: you or any other manager faced with a difficult decision on what to do first could be in his shoes.

John has found himself in a classic project manager situation. The team generates lots of excellent ideas, some of which are product improvements, while others promise to attract more clients. John has a slew of tasks easy to get lost in, but which task should he tackle first? Where does he focus his attention?

👉 Not knowing the answer to these questions, he starts brooding. Besides, traditional task managers only help maintain a semblance of control
project manager and many tasks


In a nutshell, John feels something always eludes him, which may lead to severe mistakes. Besides, there are everyday problems like finding someone to tackle task X that others are unwilling/unable to do and deciding if task Y is worth the hassle, especially considering that it will require a larger budget.

Experience project managers will point out that one should tackle the most urgent and important tasks first, Dwight Eisenhower style! But what if the urgent and important tasks are just too many?

We believe that when deciding between urgent and important tasks, one should prioritize those that appear to be the most understandable. This way, they are most likely to be interesting to the person tackling them. One may also point out that other factors determining what should be done first come into play, depending on how many urgent and important tasks you have.

team works without matrix priorities
If a manager can't set the criteria for what needs to be done first, the team will be guided by their own understanding, essentially doing what they want


Between numerous urgent and important tasks, the team picks the most exciting ones

Completing exciting tasks allows people to develop the skills that are of interest to them, meaning that they will not have time and energy for other things. As a result, the business' and clients' needs are put on the back burner.

Looks exciting, so it's a priority


And if the business objectives and clients' needs are neglected for too long, it will take its toll. People become more experienced, add a project to their portfolio, and move on to greener pastures. 

punishment

The bottom line is that an understandable task that, with luck, also happens to be urgent and important is an inadequate measure of what needs to be done first. To rely less on intelligibility and excitingness, experienced project managers evaluate tasks on a deeper level and use various prioritization matrices, e.g., the Eisenhower matrix and its derivatives, AARRR, RICE, WSJF, and other frameworks.

However, all these methods have the same underlying principle: take task X and then evaluate it against various criteria, like importance. Of course, the more criteria you add, the more precise your evaluation will be.

using task prioritization matrix

Traditional applications for the prioritization matrix

The prioritization matrix is a straightforward and popular tool, with the Eisenhower matrix being perhaps the most popular of its varieties.

Usually, it is used as follows. Take task X and ask a question: is it important? There are only two answers to that: yes and no. If the importance and urgency criteria are not enough, you can add easy-to-do, highest-impact, and such. Thus, it becomes a different kind of matrix, but the gist of the evaluation remains the same, and the piling up tasks can be sorted into important, urgent, and easy to do.

But even matrices do not eliminate confusion. What would you do first: X, which is urgent, easy to do, and promises improved reach, or Y, which can wait but might attract more clients?

The classic Eisenhower matrix has two axes: urgent and important, and two values for each: yes and no, meaning 1 and 0. However, not all tasks are created equal in terms of importance so that you can introduce a 5-point or 10-point rating scale. For example, adding acquiring will thus be a 5 in terms of importance, while fixing the broken menu rendering in Safari will be a 3.

Also, different specialists may have different views on the same task. Therefore, a task evaluation by two specialists is also an option. Tasks of this kind will be prioritized by community managers, marketing specialists, and website admins, who are most likely to hear complaints about the menu not working. However, the more diverse opinions John gets, the more objective his decision will be. 

team priorities task and use task matrix priority


A prioritization matrix approach that changes everything

Project managers who understand objective task prioritization might resort to specialized templates in Google Sheets, where all the team members put their ratings in the respective cells. You can also assign the evaluation weight for each team member, e.g., by adding a multiplier for experienced professionals or investors in the vein of “Jack's ratings are multiplied by 1.2.”

👉 It all can be done in a regular Google Sheets spreadsheet. Sync issues with JIRA set up a formula, and add ratings. Just google “[framework name] + template + excel” or just use Ducalis.io
task description and rating
You can rate a task according to a predefined set of criteria or come up with your own

What Ducalis does and how it can help project managers like John

Ducalis will import your tasks from popular task managers such as JIRA, Trello, Asana, and Google Spreadsheets. Also, it syncs tasks in real-time, helps track votes, and notifies users about significant rating discrepancies. Back to the Safari menu rendering bug, a developer may attach little importance to this task, whereas a community manager who receives frequent complaints about this will set a high rating. The project manager will see that and take action.

It has everything that our hypothetical project manager John needs, including a variety of prioritization frameworks, custom evaluation criteria, and multipliers. Filters can also be configured to display only the tasks that are important at any given moment. So, to implement the low-hanging fruit strategy, simply configure the task list to show only those that take the least time while having the highest impact, and that's it.


matrix 2×2 with different priority

You can get a closer look at Ducalis at hello.ducalis.io.

What a priority matrix is

A priority matrix is a management tool for determining the development vector where priorities are visually divided into four (or more) quadrants.

There are matrices for personal time management and complex business projects. Most of them have derived from the Eisenhower matrix created to manage personal tasks.

2x2 prioritization matrix
A prioritized backlog visually divided into 2x2 matrix in Ducalis.io

When to use a priority matrix

Use an action priority matrix when you have limited resources and you want to distribute them rationally to maximize performance and ROI.

Placing backlog tasks into four quadrants will help you visualize their impact on the main business objectives. Focus the team efforts on one of the four quadrants to have a clear understanding of where you’re heading, what results, and when to expect.

How the quadrants work

One of the most efficient and easy to use is the 2x2 matrix. It consists of two evaluation criteria: one positive (e.g., Value, Impact, or Revenue) and one negative(e.g., Effort, Costs, or Risk).

Tasks evaluated by the criteria are divided into four quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1—high positive score and low negative score.
    This quadrant is often called Quick Wins, and its tasks are low-hanging fruit that will bring you positive results immediately. Most likely, you should do these tasks first.
  • Quadrant 2—high positive score and high negative score.
    Here are your Major Projects that won’t bring immediate results but are strategically valuable and should be considered on your roadmap.
  • Quadrant 3—low positive score and low negative score.
    These are so-called Fill-Ins—cheap solutions with no significant impact. These tasks should be further discussed and implemented only when you have extra resources.
  • Quadrant 4—low positive score and high negative score.
    These are Thankless Tasks. They bring little to no value and cost you a lot. Delete them or reconsider the solution to become more valuable.

How to create and use a priority matrix

1. Think of what is currently important to your business to come up with appropriate criteria.

Do you have deadlines, and time is critical? Or you must avoid risks at all costs?

Two criteria are enough for a fast and simple prioritization. Yet, they aren’t enough for complex projects where you must consider and juggle multiple stages of user behavior or business objectives. We in Ducalis.io estimate all the vital elements for our product and just filter the matrix by the criteria we need more focus on at some point in time.

priority matrix template
We hide some criteria to consider tasks influencing only the objective important now.

2. Decide on the score range.

What numbers will your team use when estimating the criteria?

Each criterion should be evaluated by the same numbers with prescribed interpretation. We use numbers from 0 to 3 where 0—no impact, 1—low impact, 2—medium impact, 3—high impact.

priority matrix
We use criteria tooltips so that we don't have to keep in mind what they and the scores mean.

3. Estimate all the necessary tasks together with the team.

Who takes part in the project and can bring a unique perspective to the table? Does the project require only engineers or designers and copywriters’ efforts as well?

Considering each task by the whole team strengthens your shared understanding and gives the best prioritization results. In our team, managers evaluate feature Reach and Revenue, engineers and UX/UI—Development Time, and everybody must estimate Activation, Retention, and two product-specific criteria, Speed and Collaboration.

criteria and total score formula setting task priority matrix
Most of the criteria we evaluate together to keep our shared understanding solid, and specific ones we leave to experts.

4. Study and discuss the prioritization results.

Why have these features made it to the top? Do you all agree they are most valuable now and must be implemented?

Never take the prioritization result into work unquestioningly. Prioritization is a tool to help you make the right decisions and not make them instead of you. Discuss your top priorities with the team at the planning meeting and make sure you all understand what must be done, why this way, and why it’s important.

To Sum Up

A priority matrix is simple and efficient. You can make it far more powerful by using automation tools. Ducalis.io allows you to create a complex prioritization framework you can use both as a weighted decision matrix and action priority matrix and switch the criteria focus in no time.

  • There are always many tasks to complete, and if you lose track of them or your team, everyone will forget about the business objectives.
  • Involve your team in a comprehensive evaluation of the task.
  • Prioritization matrices are practical only if you can rationally explain why task X is more important than task Y. Additional importance criteria, like “easy to do” or “increases reach,” help with that, and involving the entire team in evaluation come in tremendously handy.
  • Ducalis will assist you in accomplishing all of these goals.

Try our matrix templates. Free to sign up and free to use. No credit cards. Just jump in and prioritize for your growth.

Value vs. Risk Matrix

2x2 matrix for prioritizing initiatives.

Risk options:
  • Schedule risk—Can’t be realized in time.
  • Cost risk—May cost more than allowed.
  • Functionality risk—Not able to implement.
Make two separate assessments of each initiative:
  • How much value will the initiative deliver?
    Scored: High Value / Low Value
  • How risky is the implementation?
    Scored: High Risk / Low Risk
Results:
  • High Value + Low Risk → Do First.
  • High Value + High Risk → Do Second.
  • Low Value + Low Risk → Do Last.
  • Low Value + High Risk → Avoid.
Value vs. Complexity / Effort Matrix

2x2 matrix for prioritizing initiatives.

Make two separate assessments of each initiative:
  • How much value will the initiative deliver?
    Scored: High Value / Low Value
  • How much effort will the implementation require?
    Scored: High Complexity / Low Complexity
Results:
  • High Value + Low Complexity → Quick Wins.
  • High Value + High Complexity → Big Bets.
  • Low Value + Low Complexity → Maybes.
  • Low Value + High Complexity → Time Sinks.
Eisenhower Matrix

2x2 matrix for personal time management.

Make two separate assessments of each task:
  • Is it urgent or not urgent?
  • Is it important or not important?
Results:
  • Urgent + Important → Do First.
  • Not Urgent + Important → Schedule.
  • Urgent + Not Important → Delegate to others.
  • Not Urgent + Not Important → Avoid doing.

Eisenhower Matrix

All
2x2 Matrix

Visual division of a task list in four parts depending on the best sequence of action

Impact Effort Matrix

All
2x2 Matrix

Lean Prioritization for a visual representation of the backlog in four parts depending on the task ROI

Read about other useful prioritization techniques