Time Management Month (Part 1): Introducing the Action Priority Matrix

Linh Tran, Monday 06 February 2017 | Reading time: unknown

February is National Time Management Month. So just like last year, the InLoox blog will cover different time management topics this month. Let's start with the Action Priority Matrix.

We started this blog series last February in honor of Time Management Month and want to continue this tradition this year by sharing several other time management methods and best practice tips with you. In this first part we’ll take a look at the Action Priority Matrix.

The Action Priority Matrix

There are more things we want to do than there are hours in a day, so it is important to choose the our activities wisely. But how can you make an informed and intelligent decision? One method that can help you is the Action Priority Matrix. Instead of wasting time on activities that require a lot of effort but yield little value, this diagram shows you the activities you should prioritize instead – activities that require little effort but leave a big impact.

Prioritizing activities

This matrix looks a lot like the Eisenhower Matrix and also serves as a decision-making tool. But instead of being scored by their importance and urgency, activities are scored by their effort and impact in the Action Priority Matrix. The Action Priority Matrix consists of four quadrants which depict four different types of activities: 

How to use the Action Priority Matrix

Source: MindTools – Essential tools for an excellent career

“Quick Wins” = High impact, low effort

Quick Wins are activities that require little effort but create the most value (or have the most impact). These activities or projects have the highest priority and you should focus as much time as possible on them.

“Major Projects” = High impact, high effort

Major Projects are also activities which create a lot of value, but unlike Quick Wins they also require you to put a lot of time and effort into them. These types of projects are second on the priority hierarchy, and you should take enough time to do these tasks. But make sure that you do not let a Major Project take over all of your time and energy. The key is to finish these activities as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Fill Ins” = Low impact, low effort

Fill Ins are activities that require little effort but their outcomes also don’t leave a big impact. Which is why you should only do these tasks if you have time, otherwise you can just delegate or even drop them.

“Thankless Tasks” = Low impact, high effort

As the name already indicates, Thankless Tasks are the least attractive of tasks because they require a lot of effort but yield a comparably low return. These are the tasks that you can just drop, because they are just not worth your time.

Using the Action Priority Matrix

Step 1: Make a list of all your activities.

Step 2: Score the activities based on their impact and the effort you have to put into them to complete them. You can use a school grading scale from A (= high) to F (= low) or a 1-10 scale, or any other scale to score the activities according to their impact and effort needed to complete them.

Step 3: Plot the activities on your Action Priority Matrix based on their scores.

Step 4: Prioritize your activities:

  • Quick Wins get the highest priority.
  • Focus the remaining time on Major Projects.
  • If you have capacities left, do the Fill In activities. If not, delegate these tasks.
  • Eliminate Thankless Tasks.

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