Did you know that taking down notes would make you less stressed, keep you on task, and make you more effective? While this powerful tool would make it easier for you to make your to-do-list, having a clear vision of your priorities remains hard, considering every option on value, costs, and time.
You see, humans usually experience what we call the Zeigarnik effect. This is a mental state where instead of focusing on the things that we have accomplished, we focus more on the things that we should do; those subconscious tasks we’ve been thinking all the time without even acknowledging their hierarchy of importance. So you see why it’s hard to set priorities and do them at the same time without jotting them down? It’s like walking on a plank placed on the brink of a mountain waiting for you to slip anytime.
But why is it important for your company to set your priorities and goals? Or even set your own priorities first?
In the previous 2019 Product Planning Report, 40% of product managers re-prioritise their efforts to diminish backlogs every week. This is because a lot of factors change. External factors such as competitors’ activities and market demands, and internal factors such as changes in resource levels and availability, would usually drive your company to consider prioritising what’s more important to cope with these changes.
So what is the best solution to set priorities effectively?
The Priority Matrix
Priority matrix is a tool that helps you have a better insight into tasks or projects that need to be prioritised. It makes your personal or team goals more achievable and effective. It’s a process of making priorities: prioritising projects or tasks that would save you on wasting a lot of time on the less important things.
Each department of your company could use your own modified priority matrix, depending on its effectiveness or efficiency on your team. There are a lot of priority matrices that you could use personally or for your team. You could use a priority matrix for the Six Sigma technique, Eisenhower matrix, and GTD. For this purpose, I will be using GTD Priority Matrix as an example.
GTD Priority Matrix
According to the Getting Things Done (GTD) framework by David Allen, for you to know what effectively sets your priorities and be really productive, you have to move the projects and tasks from your subconscious mind and jot them down externally, grouping them into actionable items. It’s a personal productivity project for yourself which releases you from being overwhelmed and instills focus, confidence, and clarity. It is getting organized and staying productive without you bearing all the weight of tasks.
What makes GTD effective is that it converts your projects and tasks into tangible and visible actions. When used and empowered, this framework would be your best option in creating your real priorities, the things that you need, and should do within your company.
Priority Matrix, on the other hand, is a 4-quadrant guide that would help you focus on your top priorities. When GTD is paired with the priority matrix, it makes creating priorities more efficient and doable. It would be easier for you to coordinate the different tasks and projects among your team members.
The four quadrants within the GTD Priority matrix would have different names. You can name each quadrant based on how important a task or project is. There are a lot of templates out there that you can adapt to but you can use the following names:
1. Critical and Immediate
The tasks in this category are the things that you should do now. They are considered time-sensitive (with a deadline), making them top priorities. The tasks are time-consuming and require high effort to complete.
2. Critical and High Effort
These are the major projects that are important and require a high effort but can be set aside first and do after the top priorities are completed. These tasks take a long time to complete, thus, proper planning is required.
3. Critical and Low Effort
The tasks in this category are not crucial and will require low effort. These are the tasks that you should delegate to other members of your team.
4. Collection Bin
These are the random tasks or things in your mind that you can jot down. No need to categorize them. They can sometimes be ideas that are not even related to work.
Using this modified priority matrix, it can save you from all that subconscious noise and start getting things done in an instant.