Project Management 101: How to Prioritize Projects That Matter

Prioritizing Projects in Your Business

As a business owner, you’re constantly managing projects whether you realize it or not. Your work is split up into tasks that centre around a specific goal. These groups of tasks are what I call “projects” in the entrepreneur’s world. The way I see it – move your tasks along, and you move your projects along… move your projects along, and (technically) you should be moving your big business goals along too.

I say “technically” because projects that are not aligned to your big business goals shouldn’t really take up your time or headspace.

We all have finite resources to work with – be it time, money, manpower. And it is all and well to be that person who has a heap of ideas to draw from, but if you don’t have a way to prioritize projects, things can get super stressful real quick.

When figuring out which project to prioritize, try working your way through the following steps:


Step 1 – Start a List of the Projects That Have Had Any Serious Airtime in Your Head


Step 2 – Starting from the Top, Assign an ‘Impact’ Rating to Each Project (1 Being Low; 10 Being High)

When considering impact, think about:

  • Impact on market share & brand awareness
  • Potential cost savings
  • Increased sales
  • Improved client experience
  • Better client satisfaction
  • Contribution to your overall business strategy

Aim for ratings that don’t sit on the fence here.

Be critical in your thinking and use your experience and best judgement to quantify the impact each project will have on you, your clients and your business.

You can use the 5 why’s to get really clear about the driver for each project.

Better yet, think in terms of outputs, outcomes and benefits. As an example:

Output: New CRM system.

Outcome: Every client interaction will be managed more efficiently.

Benefits: 35% increase in Productivity. 44% Increase in Leads. 37% increase in Revenue. Annually.

With this framework in mind, assign your rating. We’re after a bit of a spread here.


Step 3 – Starting from the Top and Using the Same Rating Scale, Assign an ‘Effort’ Rating to Each Project

When thinking about effort, think about:

  • The people needed to deliver the project
  • How much is it going to cost
  • How much time is it going to take
  • The technology or systems that you have to invest in and/or learn
    skills and knowledge that you may or may not currently have in your team


Step 4 – Categorize Your Potential Projects Based on Which Bucket They Fall Into

High impact, Low effort projects – These are your quick wins. I’d focus most of my energy on knocking these out of the park quickly and without fuss.

High impact, High effort projects – These tend to require a lot more of you and your business BUT they are high return projects. With these, I’d look to work on no more than one at a time and tackle them in sprints.

Low impact, Low effort projects – I suggest only tackling these if you had absolutely nothing in your first two buckets.

Low impact, High effort projects – These are your ‘Why bother at all?!’ candidates.


Step 5 – Laser in on Those Quick Wins and High Return Projects

The next step is only necessary if you still have a list that needs to be whittled down some more.

If this is where you’re at, take only those quick wins and high return projects, and then critically review them.

Dig deeper and narrow the list down even more by analyzing them based on things like dependencies, regulations/compliance, impact on existing projects as well as other external factors like market trends and your competition.

By this point, you should have a pretty clear view of the projects that are worth starting now vs. perhaps a little later vs. not at all.

Beyond that, you also have a roadmap for what matters right now, and why.


If you found this approach useful, here’s a simple Excel tool I’ve created that will help you through the project prioritisation process. It has been designed to rank and visually represent your projects based on the impact and effort ratings you’ve entered. Just click the link, save the file on your computer and you’re good to go.

Click to download: Project Prioritization Matrix


Next Steps

Project management offers tremendous value for any size business (yes, even small startups).

Your next steps are all about putting things in motion; minimizing risks; setting yourself up for success with the systems, people and processes that align with how you work and your goals.

Good luck!