Should You Do It? A Prioritization and Decision Making Tool for You

With a limited amount of time each day, finite cash resources and so much to do, you may wish to see if you are doing what is most important to you.  If not, you may wish to make adjustments to improve your productivity, profitability and/or quality of life.

Start with a large sheet of paper (or four 8.5 by 11 sheets of paper taped together) and a sticky memo pad (or a pad of small pieces of paper and high quality clear tape which can be removed and repositioned without tearing the paper).   Reproduce an enlarged copy of the chart shown in this article onto the paper, occupying the entire surface.

Write everything that you do and everything that you would like to do, but don’t have time or money to do on the sticky paper, using one piece of paper for each thing that you do (don’t forget personal and family events).   Double check to be sure that you did not forget anything.

Now, take each sheet of sticky paper and place it on the chart where it seems to fit best. At this point, try not to focus on the meaning of the colors.  We will review the meaning of each quadrant in more detail later on. The more important (due to enjoyment, sense of accomplishment, or income received) doing or completing the action is to you, the higher it goes on the chart (into yellow or green areas).   The more cost (effort, time and/or money) it takes to complete the action the further to the right it goes (yellow or red areas).   Once all of the sticky memos have been placed on the chart review it and fine tune the placement of each item so that more important items are higher on the chart (green or yellow) than less important items (orange or red) and items which require more resources (time and/or money) are further to the right (yellow or red) than less costly items (green or orange).

Your major work with the chart is complete for the next few days.  Keep the memo pad handy for additional action items which you think of throughout the day.  Write a new memo for each new action item.   Position it on the chart when convenient.

After a few days have elapsed in which you have not added action items, review the chart again.  Is it an accurate picture for you?  If not, adjust and then repeat the review cycle in another few days until you are satisfied that the chart is accurate.

Now review the chart.   Is everything you are doing in the green and possibly the yellow areas?  If so, you are probably investing your time and resources appropriately, but check the relative placement of each of your sticky memos.  Are you focused on what is the most important of these important items and completing all of the important activities which are not expensive to do?  If not, you might wish to do a bit of fine tuning.

Are you focused on items in the orange and red areas?  If so, it is probably time to refocus.  Perhaps, you can simply stop doing some of the items.   If not, you might hire someone to do these activities or otherwise outsource their completion.  You will then have more time to focus on the green and yellow areas and should increase your satisfaction and/or your income.

If you have employees working with you, you might want to repeat this exercise as a business activity or suggest that your employees do a similar chart for themselves.  You might encourage your family members to review your chart and do the exercise too.

Whenever you are thinking about taking on a new activity think about where you would place it relative to everything else on the chart to determine whether you should do it.  Once a quarter, update your chart and review it to help you remain focused on doing what is most important and of most benefit to you.   If you have a major change in objectives or business circumstances begin a new chart.

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