As business owners and leaders, you’re doing it all. You’re getting lost under a stack of hats, and eventually feel like there is so much to do, that you become paralyzed into inaction. We see it all the time, and we’ve been there too!

A skill that very few people are taught is how to set priorities based on more than a whim, but this is a skill we work on with many of our clients. It can mean the difference between forward momentum and spinning wheels in your business (dare we say… traction?). Today we’re going to share with you a free downloadable tool that we’ve created that has been super helpful to many of our executive coaching clients, as well as our supervisees: The CMO Prioritization Matrix.

The concept of a prioritization matrix was shared with me by a mentor a few years ago, in which I would be instructed to pick the dimensions of a task that influenced where it should fall on my priority list. I would list these factors across the top of a spreadsheet. Down the first column, I would list my major projects/outputs that I needed to work towards, creating a matrix. I was then instructed to add a value between 1-5 into each cell of the matrix, and use those to calculate a priority score for each of my tasks.

Over the years, I ended up refining the strategy a bit, and settled into the tool that you see here, which is a real example of a matrix used by one of our executive coaching clients (shared with permission). 

 In the first column, you can see the clients projects and to-dos listed out. In the top row of the matrix, you can see the dimensional factors of each task listed. I’ve settled on these in the last couple years, but the document available below is completely editable and customizable, so remove and add as needed.

The dimensions are:

  • Time requirement – how long will the task take you to complete?
  • Difficulty – is it something you can do fluently, or will it require more focus?
  • Visibility – who will be able to see the outcome?
  • Urgency – is there a due date?
  • Direct Business Impact – will the task contribute to critical business outcomes, like revenue, productivity, or regulatory compliance?
  • Control – can you do the task alone, or will you need other resources?
  • Importance to the Performer – how motivated are you to work on the task?

Some folks also choose to add things like cost to the mix – feel free to do so if that is one of your determining factors.

Now, you’ll notice in the example above, that the cells under the dimensions are drop downs. In order to make things a little more objective, the dimensions are clearly defined and anchored to numerical values. As you click each drop down, the template will automatically calculate the value of that cell, based on which responses will increase the order in which we should be working on things. For example, if I have a project that is highly visible to clients, that can be completed in an hour as if it is habit, I’ll want to work on this before tasks that are less visible to clients or produce no concrete business outcomes.

In the final column, each task receives a total score. Conditional formatting is used to highlight in green those tasks that should be given priority first. You can always sort this final column (as my client did above) to show you a potential order of task completion based on these factors.

The final cool thing about this tool is that on the second sheet within the Excel file, you can completely customize the values of each response and change things however you want to. Each matrix has to be based on the motivations and values of the person using it. So edit away!

We hope you find the CMO Prioritization Matrix to be a handy tool in your leadership arsenal. Many of the clients who begin using this tool continue doing so, unprompted, for years! Hopefully it will help you focus and organize your work, and help put each of your many hats into a neat, labeled box. If you have any questions or want a walk-through on using the tool, reach out to us!

Updated: From a client, unsolicited. 

“As a solo provider, I wear many hats: clinical director, operations manager, case manager, marketing, and therapist. Because of these many hats, selecting priorities is an extremely difficult task for me. I began using the prioritization matrix produced by Shannon Lee with Chief Motivating Officers and it has completely transformed how I work. Thanks to this objective tool, I am able to input my goals and based on the point system, organize my to do list. I have had two of the most productive weeks in my career!” 


Prioritization Matrix

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