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How to Prioritize Your Next Project

Jan 12, 2021

Disclaimer: The below article might contain affiliate links. That means if you click on an identified link* and subscribe to the product or service, I might receive a commission for the referral. Quality and integrity are cornerstones for me, though, so you can rest assured that I’d never recommend anything I don’t use and love myself.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you are likely a visionary. Someone who loves coming up with new ideas and bringing new creations to life. This is what makes you a great business owner, but it can also be what stops you from ever moving the needle forward.

Too many ideas, not enough time. How can you prioritize and start working on the projects that actually matter for your business (read: make you money and make your customers happy)? Simple. Do the next right thing.

Do the next right thing in your business

If you know me well, you know a bit of a Disney nerd. I even started a Disney-meets-business-related podcast with my friend Yasmine Spencer, called Pixie Dust & Profits. So when I watched Frozen II for the first time and heard Anna singing, “Do the next right thing,” I knew I’d be using those lyrics for business strategy analogies for the foreseeable future.

But how do you do the “next right thing” in your business? There are a number of factors you have to take into account, like:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Delegation and team members
  • World events (as I’m writing this, we’re 2 days out from the events at the U.S. Capitol)
  • Homelife and/or kids
  • Customer and client demands
  • Any other number of factors

Honestly, choosing your next project or investment can be a juggling act all on its own.

My best advice is to take a moment and really evaluate what the next right thing is.

Notice how I said “next” there. If you’re really looking at your priorities and deciding what’s actually best for you and your business, I don’t think there’s a “wrong” move. The only mistake you can make is not assessing your projects and priorities. 

If you’re focusing on what’s best for you, your business, and your customers/clients right now, you’re doing the right thing. But how do you take all of those factors I listed above and turn that into a solid decision? With a matrix, of course.

The benefit/effort matrix

Entering the online business space with my MBA, I was honestly shocked to see that many business owners and entrepreneurs don’t know about this simple tool to help you filter all the ideas you have floating in your head. It’s called a Benefit-Effort Matrix, and it’s business management 101 in the corporate space.

Best of all? It’s easy.

All you have to do is write down a list of the projects or tasks you have currently floating around in your head and then sort them. So take a minute, grab a piece of paper or some sticky notes, and do a quick brain dump of all the little tasks you have in your head for your business. 

  • What projects are you currently working on?
  • What ideas have you been entertaining around creating new products or ways to market yourself?
  • What is that project that creeps into your head at 3am because you keep meaning to get started on it but haven’t yet? 
  • Are there any tasks or to-do’s that you know are probably extremely important to implement but you just can’t find the motivation to do it? 

Remember: The things you’re jotting down aren’t your client work or order fulfillment tasks, it’s not entering your receipts into the bookkeeping system… these are the things that will move your business from point A to point B.

From here, it’s time to sort those tasks into four quadrants:

benefit effort exercise

Sort each project by how much effort (time, money, thought/energy, etc.) they’ll take, and the level of impact they’ll make in your business. For clarity’s sake, let’s consider “impact” to be anything that will increase your brand awareness, serve more customers, and drive revenue.

Here’s an example for you:

Now, for your last step, you’ll want to divide your chart into four quadrants… I know, I know, you’ve probably spent a bunch of time making your chart pretty and you don’t want to slash an X right through it… but trust me! Once you have everything sorted by benefit and effort, it’s much easier to see which step is your “next right one.”

Do you see 1 to 2 projects or tasks that you can complete in the next few weeks that will move the needle forward? Can you see which projects are actually going to be a bigger lift than you expected… and maybe won’t give you the ROI you want (hint: I tell my clients to cross off or parking lot anything that falls in the ‘Thankless Tasks’ realm)?

This simple exercise is the best way that I know how to help people prioritize their projects, and make the most of their time, money, and other resources.

Stop chasing shiny objects

Of course, I know that this down-and-dirty matrix might not be all the help you need. Especially if you’re looking to scale your business or have a team to manage. It’s easy to get derailed by shiny objects or whatever is on fire at the moment — and then the matrix goes out the window.

That’s why I created the Shiny Object Syndrome workbook. Not only do I walk you through how to prioritize projects, but you’ll also get access to the 6 Strategic Pillars for Success, which help you find the projects that actually matter in each area of your business. There’s a check-in with your projects and focus areas, a Focus Flowchart so you know exactly what decision to make next, and a pledge that helps you get crystal clear on your priorities.

how to kick shiny object syndrome to the curb

Kick Shiny Object Syndrome to the curb, and find out what your next right thing is. Download the FREE workbook here.

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