Prioritization: How to Prioritize, Matrix, Frameworks & More

Prioritization is critical for completing work in a way that best utilizes time, energy, and resources. Prioritization skills can transform a stressful, constant-overtime work state to a calm, efficient one. Let’s take a look at several prioritization strategies that will allow you to focus on the most important things at the right time.

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Prioritize Definition

Before getting into the weeds, let’s first define what we’re talking about. The root word of ‘prioritization’ is ‘prioritize.’ The prioritize definition from the Dictionary is “to arrange or do in order of priority.” Prioritization is all about organization. If you have that skill, prioritizing will be much easier for you. So, how do you prioritize?

How to Prioritize Tasks

In thinking through how to prioritize tasks, first outline your to-do list. This should be done regardless of importance. Then, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How pressing is the task? Can it wait until the end of the day/week, or does it need to be completed now?
  2. How long will it take?
  3. What are the consequences if this task is not completed today?

When prioritizing tasks, consider the difficulty, importance, and deadline of the task. This will help determine where to focus your efforts first.

Prioritization Skills & Techniques

What are some of the most effective prioritization techniques? The technique you implement depends, in part, on your needs and natural tendencies. Prioritization skills, like ranking or visualizing each facet of a project, are consistently important in every prioritization method. The techniques (or frameworks), however, vary in simplicity, detail, and calculation. Let’s explore a number of prioritization frameworks

Prioritization Frameworks

There are a few prioritization frameworks to consider. Let’s take a closer look at three popular prioritization techniques: the prioritization matrix and template, the Moscow Prioritization method, and RICE prioritization.

Prioritization Matrix

A prioritization matrix helps identify which tasks are the most critical by ranking aspects of each task and using that information to inform your course of action. The next section containing a prioritization matrix template will help make this clearer.

Prioritization Matrix Template

Now that we’ve covered the concept of a prioritization matrix, let’s look at a prioritization matrix template. First, give each task or project a rating across key factors including budget, complexity, importance, deadline, etc. The categories are up to you.

Then, rank each task on a scale from 1-10. This will allow you to come up with a numerical ranking by adding up or averaging each score. You could even take your prioritization matrix to the next level by giving a weighting to each factor. Here’s what that prioritization matrix template could look like:

Complexity (33%)Deadline (33%)Importance (33%)Total Score (avg.)
Task A5555
Task B10255.6
Task C8888

Another prioritization matrix template to pull on is the Eisenhower four-squares model. In this model, the first square represents fundamentally crucial tasks. The second square represents important but not as pressing tasks. The third square represents urgent, but easy or less important tasks. Finally, the fourth square represents low priority tasks.

Moscow Prioritization Method

The Moscow prioritization method is useful for individuals in management positions, such as software development leaders or project managers. MoSCoW is an acronym that ignores the O’s. The acronym stands for:

  • Must have: mandatory facets of a project.
  • Should have if possible: great to have, but not essential.
  • Could have this if it does not affect anything else: facets that represent small-scale improvements.
  • Would like this in the future: low importance facets that can be delayed or easily omitted.

Of the popular prioritization strategies, the MoSCoW prioritization method stands out by being simple, operationally friendly, and transparent for a team and/or clients.

RICE Prioritization

Like the Moscow prioritization method, the RICE prioritization method also features an acronym (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort). The RICE prioritization method is utilized best with corporate teams observing their product from a variety of perspectives.


Reach speaks to the number of consumers expected in a given time period. What is the maximum number of people that can hear about and/or purchase the product in “X” amount of time? Quantify this by estimating the total number of people reached.


Impact speaks to the specific, targeted contribution of a given initiative to the overall promotion of the product. Use a 1-3 ranking scale.


Confidence speaks to having faith in an initiative and method without concrete data to back up the decision. How certain are you that this project will succeed? Quantify this with a percentage.


Effort speaks to the time and energy involved in bringing the project to fruition. How many people will it take to complete this? Will this take weeks or months to complete? Use the units “persons-months” for this calculation. 1 month of effort = 1 persons-months.

From here, give the project a numerical ranking for each category. Then, RICE turns into an equation:

RICE = {(Reach)*(Impact)*(Confidence)}/(Effort)

Ultimately, a high RICE score means a project will be more difficult, an important consideration for prioritization. This comprehensive prioritization framework is one of the best prioritization techniques for product managers.

Prioritization Tools

As we begin to wrap up today, let’s take a look at some popular prioritization tools:

  • Paired Comparison Analysis: useful for situations with vague criteria by utilizing consolidation.
  • Decision Matrix Analysis: great when many different factors are involved in prioritizing.
  • Action Priority Matrix: through the use of a diagram, plotting value of a task vs the effort needed to complete it.
  • Eisenhower Urgent/Important Principle: helps sift through what is actually urgent and what is actually important. It considers long-term benefits.
  • Modified Borda Count: great for prioritizing projects for a group, structurally involving everyone in the team.

This is not an extensive list of prioritization tools, but a great way to become familiar with the most common ones.


So, what is the best way to prioritize? How do you know what takes priority? We hope this article helped answer those questions for you and your organization. If you have further questions, our team is just one email away. Reach out today.

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Filed Under: Consulting skills, Leadership & Management