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Urgency and importance, visualizing it on a graph

Urgent: a task for which the due date is very soon.  These are the to-do’s that have a near-by due date and have not been completed yet.

Important: a task with serious meaning which deserves serious attention. These are tasks with great impact on a goal.

 

The following graph helps visualizing tasks in order to prioritize the work as per their importance and urgency levels.

urgent-important

The graph helps with a visual understanding for urgency and importance, as such:

–          the higher, the more important it is,

–          the closer it gets to the arrow (today), the more urgent it is.

 

Possible actions

These are the possible actions on this graph.

Add a task

A new task is identified. Write it on a post-it, understand if it has a due date, and place it on the graph according to the due date and the relative importance level (compared to the other tasks).

Try to keep the tasks on a similar unit level. For example, avoid having tasks with significant effort level difference (such as a one hour task next to a task that takes 100 hours). Consider combining or splitting tasks to obtain a similar level.

Mark as done

A task that is completed should get a mark, a tick making it visible that the work is complete. Do not remove it from the graph. It does carry valuable information. Perhaps, it can show that you have finished an important task ahead of time.

Remove a task

You realized that some task could have been done by another person, or its purpose has changed. By all means, remove ti from the graph. It seems like a small thing, but actively looking for tasks to be removed is crucial for effective time management.

Change the time

A big arrow on a post-it represents the current time. Move it often. It will help building the sense of urgency and the need for prioritization. Every day you should look at the graph to make a decision: should I work on this or that task? And this graph will provide you with visual guidance (and reasoning) for relatively comparing the tasks importance and urgency.

 

Simple is good

Every day we make decisions on what to work first. Very few people make truly informed decisions based on relative prioritization, differentiating importance from urgency. This simple graph helps you comparing the tasks as per their urgency and importance level.

Paulo Caroli

Paulo Caroli is the author of the best-selling book “Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product” (the first on a series of books on business agility). He's also the creator of FunRetrospectives.com , a site and book about retrospectives, futurospectives and team building activities. Caroli writes on this blog frequently. Receive the next post in your email. Sign up here.
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