How to Prioritize, Military-Style (Part II)

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Yesterday, I wrote about my challenges with visual prioritization and how my lack of a useful system causes me unnecessary stress and frustration. I came across a series of posts on Giajinass, and was inspired to see how the CARVER Matrix, a military-based tactical assessment technique, could help me improve my own prioritization process, particularly in how I manage the visual side of my task list. So, continuing on from yesterday, I’m going to redefine the six factors that make up the CARVER Matrix so they make more sense in this application, grab a few of my open tasks, and work on developing a new system of prioritization.

CARVER Defined for Prioritization

The acronym, CARVER, stands for Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability. You can see the complete military explanation of each of these factors here. For our purposes, we will be using the CARVER Matrix to identify the most important priorities on my list, so this is how I will define each of the CARVER factors: Criticality – What is the level of significance for the task? What would be the internal and external consequences if the task objectives were not met on time? How important is it? A high score means the task is more critical. Accessibility – Does it make sense to do this task now, especially when considered in relation to other situational elements? A high score means that completing the task soon is desirable. Return
– Following the process Giajinass used, I will replace Recuperability with Return. What will completion of the task help you acquire? How do you measure the value of the completed task? A high score means there are significant gains in store for completing the task. Vulnerability – How much work/time/effort will you have to expend to get the task done? Will you be able to complete it without investing significant time/money? A high score means the task requires little effort/investment to accomplish. Effect – What impact will the completed task have on your life (or your business) and the lives of those around you? A high score means the task can precipitate a desirable outcome once completed. Recognizability – Is it possible to complete the task effectively with the information/tools/resources you have available to you? Will you be able to complete it without locating specific information you currently do not have? A high score means you have a solid understanding of the task and will not need to do much background research or extra work to get it done.

Assessing the “Threats”

I took five of my tasks from my list, put them in the matrix below and assigned a value to each element. To give you an understanding of my situational objectives, I am a busy entrepreneur, freelance writer and mom who has a number of personal projects in the works with the main goals of facilitating knowledge sharing, creating collaborative environments and increasing the long-term income-generating potential. Among my values are promptness, excellence, creativity, family and respect. And my goal is to get as much accomplished as possible – reducing my task list – as quickly as I can to the best of my ability. I am using a 1-5 ranking scale based on the situation outlined above.
Setup a LinkedIn profile for Client A 3 4 3 3 4 3 20
Create Facebook fan page for Client B 5 5 3 2 5 5 25
Write SBIG post for Thursday 3 5 3 3 4 3 21
Create ad for VA Hub 5 4 5 4 4 5 27
Mail birthday card to my brother 2 3 1 5 2 5 18
In looking at my totals, I was somewhat surprised to see that it does reflect what I know to be my true priorities. For example, my brother’s birthday isn’t for a few weeks and in relation to the other tasks on my list, it is obviously not as important. Writing a post for my personal blog is important, but I already have it partially completed and it won’t be published until tomorrow anyway. Creating an ad for one of my web sites is very important because I already paid for the ad slot and the submission deadline is tomorrow.

Relating It Back

In the last step, I will take these tasks and use their CARVER values to create a more accurate visual prioritization for my project management software.

Low = Less than 20 = OK to let it slide a couple of days

Normal = 20-22 = OK to let it slide until tomorrow

Major = 23-25 = Has to get done at some point today

Showstopper = 26 and up = Do it now, right now

As I mentioned in my last post, prioritization is a very individual process and can even change on a daily basis as your immediate needs change. But I can certainly see how beginning to use this system will be more effective at identifying what my priorities are and make clearer at a glance. I’m going to go through the rest of my tasks and do a quick assessment to figure out the “real” priority so I can classify it accurately, hopefully reducing the anxiety I feel every time I look at my list. Do you think you would find value in using the CARVER Matrix to prioritize? Are you going to give it a try? Image credit: nickobec

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Prioritizing

What are the key factors to consider when prioritizing tasks?

Prioritizing tasks involves considering several key factors. Firstly, the urgency of the task is crucial. Tasks with impending deadlines should be given priority. Secondly, the importance of the task should be considered. Tasks that are critical to the success of a project or business should be prioritized. Thirdly, the effort required to complete the task should be taken into account. Tasks that require a significant amount of time and resources should be planned for accordingly. Lastly, the potential impact of the task should be considered. Tasks that can significantly improve a situation or solve a major problem should be given priority.

How can I effectively manage multiple priorities?

Managing multiple priorities can be challenging, but it’s possible with the right approach. Start by clearly defining each task and its importance. Use a prioritization matrix or tool to help you rank tasks based on their urgency and importance. Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable parts. Set clear, achievable goals for each task and track your progress. Don’t forget to delegate tasks when possible and ensure you have a balance between work and personal life.

What are some common mistakes in prioritizing tasks?

Some common mistakes in prioritizing tasks include not setting clear goals, failing to delegate tasks, not considering the effort required for each task, and not reassessing priorities as circumstances change. It’s also common to confuse urgency with importance. Just because a task is urgent doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important. It’s crucial to differentiate between the two when prioritizing tasks.

How can technology help in prioritizing tasks?

Technology can greatly assist in prioritizing tasks. There are numerous task management and productivity apps available that can help you organize and prioritize your tasks. These tools allow you to set deadlines, create reminders, and even delegate tasks to others. They also provide visual representations of your tasks, making it easier to see what needs to be done and when.

How can I prioritize tasks when everything seems important?

When everything seems important, it can be helpful to use a prioritization matrix or tool. This can help you objectively assess the importance and urgency of each task. It’s also important to consider the potential impact of each task. Tasks that can significantly improve a situation or solve a major problem should be given priority. Remember, it’s okay to delegate tasks and ask for help when needed.

How often should I reassess my priorities?

Reassessing your priorities should be a regular part of your task management process. The frequency can depend on the nature of your work and how quickly tasks and circumstances change. For some, reassessing priorities daily may be necessary, while for others, a weekly or monthly reassessment may be sufficient.

How can I improve my prioritization skills?

Improving your prioritization skills can be achieved through practice and reflection. Start by clearly defining your tasks and their importance. Use prioritization tools to help you rank tasks. Reflect on your decisions and consider what worked and what didn’t. Seek feedback from others and be open to learning and improving.

What is the role of delegation in prioritization?

Delegation plays a crucial role in prioritization. By delegating tasks, you can ensure that tasks are completed efficiently and effectively, freeing up your time to focus on higher-priority tasks. Delegation also allows for the distribution of workload, preventing burnout and promoting a more balanced work environment.

How can I prioritize tasks in a team setting?

Prioritizing tasks in a team setting involves clear communication and collaboration. Start by clearly defining the team’s goals and tasks. Discuss the importance and urgency of each task with the team. Use a prioritization tool or matrix to help rank tasks. Delegate tasks based on team members’ skills and workload. Regularly reassess priorities and adjust as necessary.

How can I handle unexpected tasks or changes in priorities?

Handling unexpected tasks or changes in priorities requires flexibility and adaptability. Start by reassessing your priorities. Consider the urgency, importance, effort required, and potential impact of the new task. Adjust your schedule and delegate tasks as necessary. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help when needed.

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
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Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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