A recent article by The Bull on this space made me think about frameworks and one of the most common issues the start-ups I work with face, that of prioritising tasks.

The pressure and challenges of building a start-up make it difficult to focus and manage what seem to be all urgent issues. Given this apparent urgency, entrepreneurs often end up doing parallel damage limitation (picture a fire fighter trying to contain several fires at the same time) and this ends up producing a less than efficient use of an entrepreneur’s time (or a fire fighter’s for that matter).

To help you deal with this you can use a simple 2×2 matrix to identify which tasks to prioritise and when.

Start off by listing all the tasks in no particular order and placing each in a matrix defined by two axis, one being the potential impact of each task and the other the ease/difficulty of implementation. Typically you’ll end up with tasks on each of the four quadrants of the matrix as follows:

  • High impact / Easy implementation => Must Do
  • High impact / Difficult implementation => Should Do
  • Low impact / Easy implementation => Do if time
  • Low impact / Difficult implementation => Discard

We can easily identify the high priority tasks as being the ones in the high impact/easy implementation quadrant. Similarly, the ones requiring the smallest attention will be on the Low Impact/Difficult Implementation quadrant but the important value of this matrix in my opinion is actually the ability to differentiate quadrants 2 and 3 which can be misleading. Tasks that can potentially produce a big impact should usually prevail over ones with smaller impact, independently of how easy the latter can be to implement. This easiness to implement is usually a trap in terms of overall effectiveness, as you risk running out of time to act on the high impact tasks.

Frameworks can be a double-edged sword but I found this one quite useful to focus attention, manage tight agendas, or limited time. Several variations and complications exist based on this base matrix (some use weighted averages or even statistical formulas to compute priorities) but I found this one to be sufficient, at least in a start-up environment.

Featured image found here.