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Creative thinking: adapting tools to help with prioritization and decision making

Some of you may have heard of the Urgent and Important Matrix. It is a common tool to help you identify your priorities and figure out what you should either let go of, delegate, or simply drop. I’ve used the matrix myself to manage my workload and find it to be a very valuable tool when it comes to helping me clear my plate and focus my attention on the work that needs to be done NOW.

Basically you write down your to-do list and start to slot things into the appropriate quadrant (see below).

  • Those things that are Urgent and Important go into the top left box.

  • Those things that are Important, but not urgent go in the top right box.

  • Those that are Urgent (time sensitive) but not important go in the bottom left box.

  • And those items that are not urgent AND not important go in the bottom right box.

For those of you not familiar with the tool, here’s a quick visual of the tool:

The joy of this matrix is that you really can sort out what you need to do today, what you can leave for another day, what you can pass on to someone else (filing in my case!), and what you can just get rid of as it’s neither important nor urgent. By sorting your to-do list this way, all of a sudden things seem more manageable.

What I really love about this matrix idea though is that it can be applied using any variety of criteria. In this case we used Urgent and Important, however, the reality is that those two criteria can be anything that you think is appropriate at the time.

For example, one of my clients has recently been struggling with the line between doing what she loves and doing what brings in revenues. One of the other group members suggested modifying the matrix criteria to Joy and Money to help her focus on defining which revenue streams would bring her the desired Joy and Money.

So using the same premise above if every revenue stream would be assessed based on which brought joy and money… and the focus would be on doing those that brought in both, and those that only met one of the criteria could either be scheduled or delegated, and those that met none of the criteria could be eliminated.

In my opinion this tool can be modified to help you make all kinds of priority / evaluative decisions; you just need to define your criteria. What are struggling with in your business today and what criteria might you use to help you determine where you should focus your energy? Share your ideas below in the comments section.

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