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How an impact effort matrix can help you prioritize tasks 9 min read
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Something entrepreneurs and project managers frequently grapple with is how to best spend their time and resources. For example, is it better to focus on low-impact projects given they require proportionately low effort, or are high-impact, high-effort endeavors more worthwhile? Should you reach for the low- hanging fruit or build a ladder and reach for the cherries at the top of the tree?

With low-hanging fruit, there’s not much risk involved. By contrast, if you put all your efforts into building that ladder, you could end up with cherries — but there’s no guarantee. You may actually find that by the time you’ve finished building it, the cherries have fallen or someone else has picked them. So, which project should you choose? It’s a difficult decision, but creating an impact effort matrix can help make it easier. Let’s explore what an impact effort matrix is, why you might want to use one, and how you can start implementing a matrix to prioritize tasks today.

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What is an impact effort matrix?

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An impact effort matrix is a decision-making tool you can use to prioritize tasks based on their potential impact and the amount of effort required to implement them. The impact of an action is typically measured in terms of its ability to achieve a specific project goal. The effort required to implement an action is measured in terms of time, money, or other resources. An impact effort matrix can be used to compare the relative impact and effort of different actions to identify those likely to be successful.

For example, an organization might use the matrix to compare the impact and effort of a new marketing campaign against the impact and effort of a new product launch. By doing so, the organization can create an action plan for the project that offers the highest return on investment. Put simply, an impact effort matrix is a tool to help prioritize tasks based on the amount of return you’ll reap on a certain amount of effort. Let’s take a closer look.

Why use an impact effort matrix?

Prioritizing projects can be difficult with multiple people involved in the decision-making process. Individuals may have their own subjective preferences about which major projects should take the lead. When people have conflicting ideas, hold-ups can occur, as can conflict. For this reason, it’s useful to have an objective way of choosing between initiatives or projects based on effort and impact.

Using an impact effort matrix helps provide a visual overview of how projects vary in terms of these two important factors. It provides a framework teams can use to make informed and objective decisions about their next moves. While it doesn’t always provide a clear answer, it does give you a basis on which to start analyzing strategies and can lead to extremely productive discussions.

Another key advantage of using this matrix relates to something called ‘the planning fallacy.’ This describes the general tendency people have to underestimate how much effort something will take.

Other benefits of using the matrix to perform an impact effort analysis include:

  • Aligning teams on project goals
  • Resource saving
  • Maximizing workflow efficiency
  • Creating a sequence of prioritized tasks

So, the benefits of using an impact effort matrix are convincing, but how do you actually use one? Let’s walk through the process.

How to use an impact effort matrix

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To use the matrix, simply plot the potential impact of an action on the y-axis of the chart and plot the effort required to take that action on the x-axis. For each axis, label one end as ‘low’ and the other as ‘high.” Then, divide the graph into four sections. This will create four quadrants, representing:

  • High impact/low effort: Few options fall into this category, but when they do, they should always be chosen. Achieving high-impact results in exchange for minimal effort is considered the sweet spot of an impact effort matrix.
  • Low impact/low effort: Rendering little impact for little effort, these actions are often not worth the time. However, it could be necessary to build these out in order to support higher-impact projects.
  • Low impact/high effort: Unless absolutely necessary, options in this quadrant should be ignored. They use up a lot of resources and deliver little in exchange.
  • High impact/high effort: Often referred to as the “challenge quadrant,” this quadrant will likely require the most discussion. Because of the high effort required, there’s a degree of risk involved. You’ll want to converse with your team to navigate through this quadrant in detail to determine the best action plan.

It’s common practice to place the L (low) at the bottom of the y-axis and on the left-hand side of the x-axis, with the H (high) on the top of the y-axis and on the right-hand side of the x-axis. This way, the low impact/low effort quadrant will be on the bottom left, and the high impact/high effort quadrant will be on the top right. The quadrant you’re interested in will depend on your team’s goals and circumstances.

For example, if you’re looking for quick wins with minimal effort required, you’ll want to focus on actions in the high- impact/low-effort quadrant. Unfortunately, these are usually few and far between. Think about it; if every business had an abundance of options for rendering high impact with minimal effort, success would be remarkably easy to achieve.

Alternatively, if you’re willing to invest more time and energy to achieve greater results, you’ll want to focus on actions in the high-impact/high-effort quadrant. An impact effort matrix is a flexible tool that can be adapted to fit any situation. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use it to make better decisions and achieve your project goals with clarity and purpose.

Examples of how to use an impact effort matrix

You might be wondering whether to continue with your regular social media posting marketing strategy or get your entire marketing squad to focus on a high-impact campaign. You might also be wondering which marketing activities are the most worthwhile. By getting your team together to gauge the effort and impact for each activity, you’ll be able to visualize how worthwhile each activity is and whether it should be included in your action plan. By creating an impact effort matrix and splitting it into four quadrants, you can choose which types of activities make the most sense for your organization.

If your products are currently under reconstruction, it may be better to stick with low-hanging fruit until they’re ready. However, if you’re launching a brand-new line, then putting in extra effort to reap high impact might make more sense for your marketing management strategy.

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Using for prioritizing tasks is an intuitive and flexible Work OS that can help you prioritize tasks, manage your workload, and achieve project success.

With a highly agile Work OS at its core, the cloud-based system allows teams to build their workspace with workflow apps of their choice. Regardless of industry,’s flexibility and customizability makes it the perfect place to plan, manage projects, and collaborate with coworkers.

A project priority matrix can help you set up an impact effort matrix of your own. It’s a 2D chart that visually illustrates task importance based on factors you choose. Label your axes as ‘effort’ and ‘impact’ and rank them from low to high on each variable. Then, split the matrix into four quadrants to match the impact matrix quadrants. This way, you can clearly visualize your goals in terms of effort and impact.

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Related templates on

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Once you’ve used a project priority matrix and conducted an impact effort analysis, you can use our other templates to get your project off the ground and launched into orbit.

Weekly to-do list template

With the Weekly To-Do List Template, you can create a backlog of tasks and rank them in terms of priority. With this template, your team can view list items and offer their own input. You can also rank items in terms of priority and track the status of projects, helping your team coordinate to complete tasks.

Marketing team planning template

If your project goal is marketing-related, our Marketing Strategy Template can help you arrange tasks between team members so that they can collaborate seamlessly to meet project objectives.

Frequently asked questions

What is an impact effort matrix?

An impact effort matrix helps prioritize tasks and objectives and is based on two factors: the potential impact of a task or objective, and the amount of effort required to accomplish it. High- impact, low-effort tasks are considered to be high priorities, while those with a low impact and high effort are considered to be low priorities.

How do you calculate impact vs. effort?

You can calculate impact by using any numeric measurement of your choice. For example, you can base it on how much revenue will be generated, how many hits your website will receive, or the number of units sold. To calculate effort, you look at the overall cost or create a scale from 1 to 10 and assign a value to each task.

Prioritizing tasks with

An impact effort matrix is a tool used by project managers to help assess the potential impact and effort required for each task in a project. By mapping out the tasks in this way, project managers can more easily identify which tasks are likely to have the biggest impact and which ones will require the most effort. This information can then be used to prioritize tasks and allocate resources more effectively. has a range of project priorities matrices you can use to create and build on your own impact effort matrix.

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