Stop Thinking! Just Set Priorities with a Matrix Instead

Author: tracysigler | Posted: March 31st, 2013 | | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Opportunity Priority Matrix(Photo by reingestalter)

OK, I don’t really mean you should stop “thinking” just stop making decisions about what to work on at work, at home, etc. Decisions will wear you out before you even get started. That’s why it’s called “decision fatigue.”

How can we simplify our lives? By coming with a tool to help us rationally process all the opportunities we have.

What kind of tool do we need? The Opportunity Priority Matrix! My wife and I even used a matrix to choose a car recently.

The steps are this simple:

  1. Choose the criteria that are important to you, or your business, or whatever you are working on.
  2. Choose a range of scores, e.g. 1-3, 1-10, etc.
  3. Score each “opportunity” across all the criteria.

The highest scoring item should be your highest priority, and on down the list. Allocate your time, focus and other resources accordingly. End needless debate, in your head or with other people, about priorities by pointing to the outcomes in matrix.

Why do we need this again? Because you’re are tired of making the same decisions over and over. AND pursuing any opportunity means you have less capacity to pursue other opportunities. That’s why it’s called “opportunity costs.” So we should work on the most important stuff, first.

At home this may mean remodeling your kitchen is the highest “house” priority, based on the criteria and scores you come up with, and everything else has to wait in line. That doesn’t mean you have to say “no” to building a deck, or adding a swimming pool, just that they are lower on the list.

At work you may only have the resources (management focus, money, staff) to take on two or three initiatives at a time. You better make sure those things are the biggest opportunities then. To avoid adding every little task imaginable come up with a threshold (for the required money or effort) to qualify what gets added to the matrix. One example could be “only items requiring more than five hours time” go through the opportunity priority matrix.

Take a look at this example spreadsheet I made to help you get started. Go nuts and create your own criteria. Get your team on board. Then the next time someone, maybe you, brings up an insane project at work you can put it through the matrix and show him where it is on the list of priorities.

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