Understanding the Impact Effort Matrix

Learn how to use this visual tool to boost productivity by focusing on high-impact, low-effort activities.

an upper management team discussing project prioritization plans with the help of impact effort matrix on their devices

What is an Impact Effort Matrix?

An impact effort matrix, also known as an action priority matrix, is a decision-making tool used in project management to help prioritize tasks based on their level of impact and effort required. The matrix typically consists of a grid with four quadrants, with impact on one axis and effort on the other. Tasks with a high impact and requiring little effort are placed in the top quadrant and deemed high priority. Conversely, tasks with low impact and high effort required are placed in the bottom quadrant and are considered low priority.


Using an impact effort matrix can benefit a project or decision-making process. Some of the potential benefits include the following:

  • Improved focus – An impact effort matrix organizes tasks based on their level of impact and effort, allowing project managers to focus on the most critical tasks first. It can help ensure that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively.
  • Enhanced collaboration – The matrix is a simple tool that can be shared with team members to foster collaboration and facilitate discussion about task prioritization. It also allows everyone involved in the project to have a clear understanding of the project’s objectives and priorities.
  • Better resource allocation – The matrix allows for a more efficient allocation of resources by prioritizing tasks with a high impact and requiring little effort. It ensures that resources aren’t wasted on low-impact tasks.
  • Enhanced decision-making – When faced with multiple options or projects, an impact effort matrix helps make informed decisions by weighing the impact and effort of each option.
  • Targeted goal alignment – The matrix helps align tasks and decisions with the overall project goals and objectives, ensuring that efforts are focused on achieving the desired results.
  • Maximized efficiency – An impact effort matrix can help maximize efficiency and productivity by prioritizing high-impact tasks. Resources are used strategically on tasks that will have the most significant impact.

Explaining The Four Quadrants

Project leaders aim to determine where to spend their time and energy to achieve maximum results. The four quadrants of an impact effort matrix provide a visual representation and help identify the relative importance of each task.

Below is an explanation of the four quadrants:

1. High Impact, Low Effort (Prioritize)

Tasks in this quadrant are usually considered “quick wins” because they have a high impact but require little effort to complete. These tasks should be prioritized and completed first because they can significantly impact the project without using too many resources.

For example, sending out a project update email to stakeholders may have a high impact by keeping everyone informed, but it only requires minimal effort.

2. High Impact, High Effort (Strategize)

Tasks in this quadrant are essential and will significantly impact the project, but they require more effort and resources to complete. These tasks should be carefully considered and planned for, as they can contribute considerably to the project’s success. Strategies should be developed to ensure these tasks are completed efficiently.

An example would be launching a new marketing campaign, which may significantly impact increasing sales but requires significant effort and resources.

3. Low Impact, Low Effort (Delegate)

Tasks in this quadrant are low priority and should be delegated to team members if possible. These tasks have a minimal impact on the project and require little effort to complete. Delegating these tasks allows project managers to focus on more critical tasks.

For instance, scheduling a meeting room for a team gathering may have a low impact on the project, but it can easily be delegated to an administrative assistant.

4. Low Impact, High Effort (Eliminate or Minimize)

Tasks in this quadrant are considered “time-wasters” as they have low impact and require a significant amount of effort to complete. These tasks should be eliminated or minimized to free up resources for more critical tasks.

For example, manually entering data into a spreadsheet may have a low impact on the project, but it requires a lot of time and effort. This task could potentially be automated or simplified to save time and resources.

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Using an impact-effort matrix can be especially advantageous in certain situations, such as the following scenarios:

  • When you want to increase customer value and satisfaction – The Impact side of the matrix allows you to evaluate tasks and projects based on their potential impact on customer satisfaction, value, or experience. It helps you prioritize the most impactful items for customers.
  • When you need to maximize your resources – The impact effort matrix enables you to get the best return on your limited resources by directing you toward the highest impact tasks with the lowest effort.
  • When you want to boost productivity and eliminate distractions – By prioritizing high-impact, low-effort tasks, project managers can maximize their team’s productivity and minimize time wasted on low-impact tasks.
  • When faced with project challenges or scope creep – Unexpected challenges and scope creep may arise during project execution. An impact effort matrix can help you reassess tasks and make informed decisions on reallocating resources.
  • When you have a large backlog of potential projects or features – The matrix offers a systematic approach to evaluating and prioritizing your options by considering impact and effort.
  • When creating or updating product roadmaps – The matrix helps align your team on which initiatives will have the biggest impact and are feasible to execute.

Steps to Create an Impact Effort Matrix

An impact effort matrix is like a magnifying glass project managers can use to zoom in on the most critical tasks and projects. Here are some steps for creating an impact effort matrix:

  1. Bring your team together – Gather your team members and stakeholders involved in the project and hold a brainstorming session discuss their insights on each task.
  2. Identify tasks or projects – List all the tasks or projects that need to be evaluated using sticky notes, a whiteboard, or a spreadsheet. Be as specific as possible to ensure accurate evaluation.
  3. Define impact and effort criteria – Define the criteria for assessing effort and impact based on your project’s goals. For example, effort can be measured in terms of time, resources needed, or complexity, and impact can be measured by customer satisfaction, revenue growth, etc.
  4. Rate each task – Have each team member rate each task or project on a scale of 1-10 for effort and impact. The ratings should reflect the individual’s perception of each task’s importance and required effort.
  5. Plot tasks on the matrix – Plot the tasks onto the matrix using their respective ratings for effort (horizontal axis) and impact (vertical axis). Tasks with high effort and high impact should fall into the “Strategize” quadrant, while tasks with low effort and high impact should be in the “Prioritize” quadrant.
  6. Discuss and prioritize tasks – Review the results with your team and discuss any discrepancies or disagreements. Use this time to identify which tasks to prioritize, delegate, minimize, or eliminate.
  7. Create an action plan – Create an action plan to address each task effectively based on the prioritization. It may involve developing strategies for high-effort tasks or delegating low-impact tasks to team members.

FAQs About Impact Effort Matrix

Impact can be measured differently, depending on the project’s goals. It could be customer value or satisfaction, revenue growth, return on investment (ROI), etc. Effort is usually measured in time, resources needed, or complexity.

Tasks in this quadrant should be reevaluated for their necessity and potential impact on the project. Consider streamlining or automating them to minimize effort if they are deemed essential.

The matrix is most useful for projects with multiple tasks or initiatives that must be prioritized. A simple “high/medium/low” priority list may suffice for smaller projects.

The frequency of revisiting and updating an impact effort matrix can vary based on the project’s timeline and scope. It’s best to revisit the matrix regularly, especially when facing unexpected challenges or changes in project priorities.

Rob Paredes
Article by

Rob Paredes

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. Before joining SafetyCulture, he worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade. Rob's diverse professional background allows him to provide well-rounded, engaging content that can help businesses transform the way they work.