How to Prioritize Everything

priority matrix

Is it important?

Is it urgent?

Will it be quick?

Am I the best person to do it?

Will it be costly?

When does it need to be done?

Do I know how to do it?

Is it worth it to do?

Is someone waiting on me?

Prioritizing tasks is a natural instinct for most people. Often, we don’t even realize how many decisions happen in the midst of getting work done.

We start most of our days with prioritizing – which is more important, sleep a little longer, or have time to get ready for work? And in more dramatic situations – is someone choking in this restaurant and am I the one to help? – we ask dozens of questions and make just as many split-second decisions, mostly based on instinct.

Sharpening this instinct can turn you into a taskmaster – ultimately freeing up your schedule for other important things or nothing at all.

A prioritization matrix is a simple, memorable graphic to determine which tasks/projects should get attention now, be delegated or rescheduled, or even simply canceled. The main goal, of course, is avoiding spending lots of effort on low-value time eaters. For example – logging into all your accounts and then paying bills with paper checks – when you could reduce the effort and pay the bills online. Or manually logging all of your contacts into a new system, when you could export them as a batch to import automatically. Or cleaning your kid’s room for them over and over again, when you could just throw everything away.

The sweet spot really is the high value/low effort zone. But occasionally you’ll need to be willing to do the tedious tasks for mid-range value in order to move a project forward.


• If your task list is too long – start by prioritizing. You’ll be surprised what can shift around.

• Take a hard look a what is valuable. Much of our day-to-day is busy work, but value can equate to some interesting things: experience, enrichment, beauty, inspiration or praise.

• Automate whenever possible.

• Delegate/reschedule when necessary.

• Know your limits and ask for help.

• Know your most productive time of day (linked to your circadian rhythm) and wield it.

• Be realistic about what you can get done in a day.

• Remain flexible – unless you’re this guy or this guy, you really don’t know what the day holds.