This article explains the Action Priority Matrix (APM) or activity prioritization matrix in a practical way, including a template. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful effectiveness and time management tool. In this article you can also find a downloadable Action Priority Matrix (APM) template.
People in organizations have busy diaries overflowing with appointments and various activities. The Action Priority Matrix helps people find their way to balance and helps prioritize options.
What is an Action Priority Matrix?
An Action Priority Matrix makes it easier to make decisions and sets out clearly which activities must be finished on time and which activities can be omitted or performed at a later time. An Action Priority Matrix is a simple diagramming technique that helps you choose which activities to prioritize in order to make the most efficient use of your time. In an Action Priority Matrix the Efforts of the activity (x-axis) are plotted perpendicularly on the Impact/ detailing (y-axis).
This creates four possibilities:
1. Quick wins
These activities are characterized by a high Impact in combination with a low Effort. They are the most attractive activities/ projects that give good returns for relatively little effort. These activities can be completed routinely without affecting quality and they support the business continuity process. It is advisable to focus on these quick wins as much as you can.
2. Major projects
These activities have both a high Impact and a High Effort. They give good returns for a company but they take a long time to complete. Make sure that major projects do not crowd out the Quick Wins. It is important to pay much attention to these Major Projects, so that the execution of the activities can be mastered well. Working quickly and efficiently can be helpful in this.
3. Fill Ins
The so-called ‘fill ins’ have a low Impact and a low Effort. These are low-priority activities that can be dealt with at a later time. Often ‘fill ins’ stagnate activities with a higher priority. Eventually, these will have to be carried out. It is therefore advisable to make a list with ‘fill ins’ and you should only perform these tasks when you have got the time to do so.
4. Hard Slogs
The Hard Slogs or “thankless tasks” have a low Impact but require a high Effort. When a computer programme is not functioning properly and an employee spends all day trying to make this work, this must be seen as a waste of time and energy. It is therefore advisable to avoid Hard Slogs and outsource them to experts. If you do not do this, thankless and energy consuming tasks will yield low returns and there will be too little time for more important business.
In order to use an Action Priority Matrix efficiently, it is recommended to use scores for impact from 0 to 10 in which ‘0’ represents no Impact and no Effort and ‘10’ represents maximum Impact and Maximum Effort. It is possible of course to use another scale. Using this score, the activities of the Action Priority Matrix can be plotted more carefully resulting in an easier selection with respect to priority.
By using an Action Priority Matrix, activities are sequenced in the right order based on priority and therefore time will be used more efficiently. This will have a positive effect in the long term.
Employees will therefore become more and more aware of time-consuming projects and will have a better understanding of activities that give good returns. This is why Action Priority Matrix is an effective management tool: it improves the decision-making process and it minimizes stress.
Action Priority Matrix (APM) template
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is the Action Priority Matrix still applicable in today’s modern task management? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for good priority task management?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Sandler, L. (2007). Becoming an Extraordinary Manager: The 5 Essentials for Success. AMACOM.
- Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1995). First things first. Simon and Schuster.
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