The art of prioritizing

The art of prioritizing

Javier Martín Robles, Open Innovation

Javier Martín Robles

Open Innovation

January 23, 2024

Maximizing Daily Success with Focus and Applying Efficient Habits

Many of us would like to be more focused, and from time to time, we make the effort to prioritize among all the work we want to do. However, this usually happens when we find ourselves overwhelmed or at specific moments where improvisation is common, without dedicating proper time to defining objectives.

It is not easy to break out of this dynamic and accustom ourselves to working in a way that maximizes the impact of our activities. Yet, it is beneficial to gradually develop a mindset and habits that bring us closer to our ideal work model.

One way to achieve this is by frequently considering the Pareto principle.

As you may know, according to Wilfredo Pareto, in many events, approximately 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. Therefore, if we can identify that crucial 20% to focus on and stop doing the other 80%, we can turn our productivity around.

Some examples

To clarify, let’s look at some examples:

  • In many countries, about 20% of the population controls 80% of wealth.
  • In project management, often 20% of the tasks or problems are responsible for 80% of the delays or complications in a project.
  • In many companies, it is found that 80% of sales come from 20% of the products.
  • In customer service, often 20% of the customers are responsible for 80% of the total complaints.

However, as with other mental models that help avoid cognitive biases or maximize our success, merely knowing this won’t make it work like magic. We need tools to transition from theory to reality.

Some tools that can be useful for the challenging task of prioritizing

Veamos algunas herramientas que nos pueden resultar de utilidad ante el difícil reto de priorizar:

1. The Urgent vs. Important Prioritization Matrix

Also known as the Eisenhower matrix, helps prioritize objectives that are both important and urgent or important but not urgent, leaving unimportan ones for later.

Urgent No urgent
Important Crisis
Imminent deadlines
Urgent problems
Strategic Planning
Personal development
Relationship building
No important Calls
Distracting activities
Administrative tasks

2. The Impact vs. Effort Prioritization Matrix

Allows us to prioritize objectives that have a high impact with low effort, followed by those with a high impact but requiring high effort.

Low Effort High Effort
High impact Low-hanging fruit projects
Simple yet effective improvements
Strategic projects
Initiative requiring significant resources
Low impact Small or easy tasks
Maintenance activities
Time-consuming projects with little return
Laborious tasks with little benefit

3. The RICE Prioritization Matrix

The RICE prioritization Matrix helps evaluate and prioritize goals, projects, or ideas based on four factors:

  • Reach: how many people the project or idea will affect.
  • Impact: the effect the projects will have on each individual.
  • Confidence: the confidence that the project will achieve the expected impact.
  • Effort: the amount of work required to complete the project.

Using the RICE matrix, we assign scores to each objective based on these four factors and calculate a total score for each, aiding in prioritization.

The formula for calculating:

RICE Score = (Reach × Impact × Confidence) / Effort

The importance of OKR

Now we have three ways to decide where to focus before jumping into the first thing that comes to mind. It’s important to have a clear order, starting by listing, preferable as a team, everything we would like to achieve in the short or medium term to contribute to our mission. Then, perform the prioritization exercise, and finally, state our Objectives, to which we should assign a series of Key Results that allow us to verify that our work is bearing fruit.

This is why working with the OKR systems is so interesting. It helps bring order to the usual chaos of prioritization, starting with purpose, then establishing objectives, key results and tasks to achieve them.

And a final thought: prioritizing involves sacrifice, which is not always easy because we fear that what we give up could be precisely what bring us closer to success. However, by undertaking a prioritization exercise, we increase our level of conscious understanding in our decisions, as opposed to relying solely on intuition. If you want to learn more about all this, we recommend reading SNGULAR's OKR Manual.

Javier Martín Robles, Open Innovation

Javier Martín Robles

Open Innovation

Javier Martín currently works as the Director of Open Innovation at SNGULAR, where he carries out various activities to foster the technological ecosystem, mainly through events and other dissemination initiatives. In recent years, he has specialized in disseminating and teaching technologies such as GPT in Artificial Intelligence. He has recently worked with companies like Caser and OKR, implementing goal management methodologies, assisting their implementation in companies such as Leroy Merlin.