Prioritization Matrix: A Guide

Explore what a prioritization matrix is, how it can be used, and some of the different types of matrices.

business team meeting to sort quarterly priorities

Published 19 Aug 2022

What is a Prioritization Matrix?

A prioritization matrix is a tool that can help you prioritize tasks, goals, or anything else based on two factors—importance and urgency. By determining how important and urgent something is, you can quickly prioritize what you need to do and ensure that you're always working on the most important tasks.

The prioritization matrix is essentially a grid with four quadrants. The x-axis is used to assess the importance or urgency of the issue, while the y-axis is used to assess the impact or potential rewards. The quadrants are then used to prioritize the options based on their urgency and importance.

This matrix is one of the many management tools used in the Six Sigma methodology. The beauty of the matrix is that it forces you to weigh the importance and urgency of each option against each other. This can help you quickly identify which options are the most important or urgent and which ones can be put on the back burner.

Prioritization matrices are easy to use and can be extremely helpful in both your personal and professional life. If you’re looking for a helpful tool to help you assess and prioritize your projects, objectives, or goals may be the perfect solution.

What Does a Prioritization Matrix Do?

A prioritization matrix is a tool that helps you prioritize the initiatives and projects that your company is working on. It allows you to compare and contrast different projects in terms of their importance and impact on the business. This tool is particularly useful when you have a lot of initiatives underway and need to figure out which ones to focus on first.

The matrix can be customized to your company’s specific needs and typically includes factors such as the expected return on investment (ROI), the timeframe, the risks, and the impact. By evaluating each project against these factors, you can get a better sense of which ones are the most important and should be given the most attention.

Benefits of Using a Prioritization Matrix

Using a prioritization matrix provides many benefits, such as the following:

  • Helps in breaking down and prioritizing complex issues, especially when various factors affect decision-making 
  • Allows you to easily categorize and rank your priorities
  • Identifies the most important areas that need to be focused on
  • Creates a fundamental explanation about what important things are to be discussed  
  • Assembles a team that supports essential buy-ins

When Should You Use It?

So, when can you use a prioritization matrix? You can use it when:

  • Needing help in prioritizing projects that you find complicated to do
  • Ensuring better time management for your task
  • Enhancing and improving harmony for your daily task

What are the 4 Levels of Prioritizing Tasks?

There are four levels of prioritizing tasks. Handling each level can vary from person to person and from company to company. Let’s discuss each one of them:

  1. CriticalThese tasks are often considered urgent and time-sensitive, wherein teams are required to stop whatever they are doing and immediately do them. When a critical task is not immediately attended to, it can create various risks for a business.
  2. High priority High priority tasks are quite similar to critical tasks but are not time sensitive. They can be done in a week or so hence why it comes second amongst the levels.
  3. Neutral This level of task can be patiently done and has no immediate deadline. 
  4. Low priority In this level, a task can be done at any given time. If there is any deadline, it can be moved or changed anytime without any problem.

How Do You Prioritize Tasks in Prioritization Matrix?

There are many different ways to prepare a prioritization matrix, but the basic idea is to list out all of your options and then rate them on a scale of importance. This can be done using a simple table or spreadsheet, or you can use a more sophisticated tool like a Kanban board or a digital platform. 

Here are some tips to help you prepare one:

List Down All Your Tasks

Begin by listing down all the tasks you need to do, whether big or small and urgent or not. This will help you analyze and organize all the tasks at hand. 

Identify Each Task’s Criteria and Weight

One way to determine and measure criteria for the task is by comparing the input (amount of time and effort needed to complete a task) against the output (completed project). Gauging the input against its output will provide you with its position in the matrix. 

Determine Its Urgency 

Now that you’ve established the criteria, it’s time to decide how urgent each will be. Using the rows and columns, you can easily determine which tasks fit in the matrix. 

Analyze the Completed Matrix

Finally, it’s time to review what you have prepared and created to see if it’s correct. Always keep in mind that the tasks inside the top-right quadrant should be the most essential on the list. 

How to Use a Prioritization Matrix

Below are some steps to help you easily use a prioritization matrix.

Step 1: Select A Task or Project

Choose which task or project based on the urgency inside the matrix. This is because using priority matrices can help you decide what you need to do according to their ranking. 

Step 2:  Establish Your Criteria

Next, you need to identify criteria that will be used to prioritize the objectives. These criteria can be things like impact, urgency, difficulty, etc. Once again, you can brainstorm or write down a list of criteria.

Step 3: Rate Objectives and Criteria

After you have defined the objectives and criteria, it’s time to rate them. For each objective, you should score how well it meets each criterion on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest). 

You can also use a different scale if you prefer (e.g., 1 to 5 or 1 to 100). Just make sure that you are consistent with the system that you use.

Step 4:  Set Your Priorities

The next step is to determine priorities. This is because some projects may be more important than others. By setting your priorities, you will be able to work on the most important task first and then move on to the next one. 

Step 5: Provide a Reviewable Resource

Make sure to store your priority matrices for later use. This will be your reference or guide when you want to do them again. It will be useful in providing output or the outcome of what you did when completing the task.

Whichever method you choose, the benefits of using a prioritization matrix are clear. By taking the time to prioritize your tasks, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run. You’ll be able to work on the most important tasks first and do the rest in your spare time. 


FAQs About Prioritization Matrix

A prioritization matrix is a technique that is very helpful in identifying what problems require immediate action or solution.

A priority matrix provides a simple method to sort out a diverse set of tasks or projects and rank them accordingly depending on their criteria of importance.

A 2×2 prioritization matrix, also known as the lean prioritization approach, is a tool that guides and assists teams by helping them decide what to discuss for their next product backlog. 

A prioritization matrix can be used for prioritizing causes or solutions in a Six Sigma project.

Shella Marie Ang

SafetyCulture staff writer

Shella Marie Ang

Shella Marie Ang is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. Cultivating her experience in social media marketing, virtual assistance, and SEO has helped her create compelling content for websites and blogs. Her medical background also has given her an edge when it comes to writing medical and health-related content. She loves reading in her free time and being around other creatives.

Shella Marie Ang is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. Cultivating her experience in social media marketing, virtual assistance, and SEO has helped her create compelling content for websites and blogs. Her medical background also has given her an edge when it comes to writing medical and health-related content. She loves reading in her free time and being around other creatives.