What is the action priority matrix?

The action priority matrix is a diagrammatic framework intended to assist product managers in prioritizing their tasks and making the most use of their available time. It accomplishes this by charting the impact of an activity against the effort required to complete it.

The history of the Action Priority Matrix

The renowned author and business leader Stephen Covey originally conceptualized and introduced the concept of an action priority matrix.

Covey described the so-called “four quadrants” in his best-selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, published in 1989.

The form of Covey’s first iteration of the action priority matrix is quite similar to that of the action priority matrix; the significant distinction is that the two main axes are Importance and urgency.

The major categories within the quadrants (Which will be discussed later in this article) are simple combinations of significance and urgency, contrasted to the action priority matrix, which provides more well-defined, actionable categories (like quick wins).

The Importance of Using The Action Priority Matrix

Deciding on which task to complete next is difficult when one’s to-do list appears endless. When it comes to product managers navigating a complex product roadmap, this can be especially difficult.

Using an action priority matrix eliminates guesswork and relies on logic to determine what to work on next.

By balancing the impact of a task against the effort required to finish it, rather than depending on gut sense, the matrix allows you to locate the sweet spot where actual productivity occurs.

 When it comes to the modern working environment, one of the most challenging tasks for anyone is summed up in a single word: prioritization.

There are times when it appears that we all have less time to do more things, which means that doing things in the proper order can make all the difference.

It is intended to simplify the prioritization and decision-making process by eliminating any emotional concerns and focusing on objective variables such as time sensitivity, energy requirements, linked tasks, and other factors. Two categories can be distinguished: impact and effort.

The Benefits of The The Action Priority Matrix

It should be evident that an action priority matrix is a handy tool, particularly for teams working on large projects with numerous moving pieces and variables.

But, aside from that, why should you think about experimenting with this framework?

Here are just a few of the most significant advantages.

It gives structure and significance to a jumbled list of chores that would otherwise be meaningless

We’re not alone when we stare at a seemingly never-ending list of responsibilities with no idea where to begin. By putting the action priority matrix into place, you or your team will be able to sort outstanding tasks into categories practically quickly. You may decide what is most important to you – and what you might want to consider deleting entirely.

Gaining support from essential stakeholders

If you work on a product team, you’re probably already aware that getting buy-in from the rest of the company is critical to getting things accomplished. However, it is not an easy victory when all you have is a hunch that this is the proper path for the squad.

A convincing explanation for why you should complete a particular activity first can be developed using objective, real-world facts, which you can obtain through the action priority matrix. The effort may outweigh the consequences or vice versa. However, the matrix provides you with a means of bringing it about.

It serves as an antidote to the paralysis of analysis

In psychology, there is a notion known as selective attention,’ which refers to the ability to concentrate our attention on a single subject while disregarding all other distractions in our environment. The action priority matrix is an example of this phenomenon being transferred into a practical framework, which means it can assist you in distinguishing the forest from the trees in some situations. It can keep you from experiencing the tension that comes with having too many options simultaneously, a condition known as analysis paralysis.

The Four quadrants of The Action Priority Matrix

Now we can discuss the critical elements of the action priority matrix.

There are four of them, as the name implies, that make up the square chart. They are as follows:

Quick wins: located in the upper-left corner, require little effort but significant impact.

Significant initiatives in the upper-right corner require considerable effort and impact.

Fill-ins: located in the lower-left corner, require little effort and have little influence.

Thankless chores: You can find them In the lower-right corner, which requires effort but provides a little reward.

Each of these quadrants should be self-explanatory regarding what it represents. But, more importantly, how do you use the matrix?

Here’s a quick walkthrough of the process:

How To Use The Action Priority Matrix

To use the model, follow these four steps:

  •  Write it down: Make a complete list of all of your tasks.
  • Sum it up: Score your tasks for effort and impact. You can use any scale you like, but a simple 1-10 scale works well, where one is very low, and ten is very high.
  • Organize it: Place each activity in the matrix according to its effort and impact scores.
  • Prioritize your activities: Give quick wins the highest priority. Pend the remaining time on your significant projects. You should spend the majority of your time on these tasks. If you have any remaining time, do your fill-in activities. Otherwise, delegate or drop these tasks. Eliminate thankless tasks. Spend absolutely zero time performing these tasks.


Applying the action priority matrix in a well-put manner will result in a realistic, graphic, and objective portrayal of what truly matters in the real world.

It will be much easier to prioritize your workload from here on out. Do you want to focus on quick wins when you have a little spare time? Alternatively, how about delving further into any of those major projects?

Whatever method you use to prioritize your approach, the Action Priority Matrix will provide you with four buckets. You may pull tasks whenever you’re ready for them, rather than relying on the old-fashioned “lucky dip” method of selecting tasks when you’re ready.


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