top of page

Effort - Impact Matrix: How to manage your time and your effort.

Everyone I’ve ever met struggles with how to allocate their time effectively.

Blank effort-impact matrix

Most people’s jobs contain multiple projects and tasks that demand attention often simultaneously. The challenge is choosing what to focus on and what to stop doing.

That’s what an impact effort matrix helps you with. It's a decision-making tool that can help you prioritise tasks based on their potential impact and the effort required to implement them.

Used at an individual level, it can help you surface your preferences and identify where you might be spending too much time when you could have a more significant impact elsewhere. For a team, an impact effort exercise can clarify what everyone is working on and help prioritise tasks. It can help surface individual subjective preferences about which projects should take precedence, resolve conflicts and improve the team’s focus.

The key to making it useful is agreeing – with yourself (write them down so you can’t cheat) or with your team - objective criteria for effort and impact.

Using the impact-effort matrix

To use the impact-effort matrix, the key steps are similar for an individual or a team.

  1. Gather all your activities – projects and tasks – on post-it notes (or a piece of paper if doing it alone).

  2. Draw the Impact-Effort matrix on a large sheet of paper – a grid with four quadrants based on the overlap between effort and impact (see the graphic).

  3. Agree on a set of criteria for impact and effort. What constitutes impact for your team (more revenue, social impact, on-time delivery, etc.)? What does effort mean for you or your team (time taken, thinking time, etc.)?

  4. Get everyone to put their post-its on the grid silently and see what alignment emerges. If you are doing it alone, sometimes it helps to bring in an outside voice to challenge your thinking.

  5. Discuss where they’ve put their projects and work and whether it’s right. Refer back to the criteria when there is disagreement.

  6. Once you have 80% agreement, look at where all the tasks are, focus the conversation on allocating effort, and if there is anything you or your team should stop doing. In doing this, it's useful to think about the boxes in the following way.

Effort-Impact Matrix, filled in to explain where to focus you attention.

Sources on managing your time and your effort


Let's connect.


If you found this blog engaging, have questions about ordinary leadership or want to chat about leadership in general, it would be great to connect.


I set aside two weekly hours to make new connections and renew old ones. We have half an hour to discuss whatever you want - how we could work together, your projects and ideas, or something else. It's space for connection.

You can book a slot here, and there is more background here.

bottom of page