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How to prioritize your actions for a more fulfilling life

And stop feeling stuck

Scrumpy Dad
4 min readJan 17, 2024


Do you feel overwhelmed by all your plans and actions? Is your to-do list out of control? Did you add another task to clean up your to-do list?

It happens to all of us someday. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make sense of it all. In this edition, you will learn how to prioritize based on effort and impact. I use this exercise when I find myself stuck in a decision deadlock because I have too many items to choose from. For me, that happens mostly at work, but it can happen at home, too.

Prioritization is crucial because our time and energy are limited. You must choose for your own good what to pick up first and what to pick up later. Or not at all. Working on too many items will only keep you from completing anything. Multi-tasking sounds clever, but people need to remember the waste of task-switching, which costs a lot of energy and drains the brain.

Effort vs Impact

The Effort/Impact matrix helps you prioritize your actions based on the expected Return On Investment (ROI). In other words, is the impact of an action worth the effort?

The basic idea here is that you order all your actions based on these two criteria:

  • Effort: how much time/energy do you expect is needed to complete this action?
  • Impact: what is the expected impact of completing this action? In the personal context, ask yourself: how much does this action contribute to my goals or dreams? How much does it support me in living by my values? Does it serve my purpose? To what extent does this action improve my happiness and that of my loved ones?

Getting started

Get a large piece of paper and draw a 2x2 matrix. The horizontal axis defines the expected effort from low to high. The vertical axis describes the expected impact from low to high.

Bring enough sticky notes to write down all the action items you want to prioritize. Now, place all your sticky notes on the matrix based on their expected effort and impact. This exercise is about the relative ordering of the action items. You don’t have to waste time on being perfectly right where you put each sticky note exactly.

Based on your classification, your actions fall in one of four quadrants, each indicating how to deal with those actions.

Get it done: low-effort / high-impact

Action items in this quadrant qualify as low-hanging fruit or quick wins. Because you expect a high impact with little effort, it is worth getting these items done soon, like today or this week.

Plan for later: low-effort / low-impact

These actions are easy to complete but contribute little to your goals and purpose. When you are running out of high-impact actions, it is time to look at these actions and decide if they are still worth picking up. You could plan them for later.

Reconsider: high-effort / low-impact

Actions that cost you plenty of time and energy but contribute little to your goals or purpose should be handled cautiously because you expect a low ROI. And since you are prioritizing, these actions can wait and are candidates to be dropped altogether.

Break it down: high-effort / high-impact

This is an intriguing quadrant because you are expecting a significant impact but also anticipating a large effort investment for these actions. So, the actual ROI might still be low.

These actions deserve a closer look to determine if they can be broken down further. In Scrum, we call this refinement: splitting bigger chunks into smaller, more manageable pieces. When breaking down these actions, the new actions can end up in any of the other quadrants. If you are lucky, you will discover some new low-effort & high-impact actions. Please go ahead and proceed from there.

The Effort/Impact matrix is a powerful tool to help you prioritize your actions. I hope you find it useful too. Let me know your thoughts on it and how it worked for you. Please share in the comments or send me a message.

Take care and till next time!

Kind regards,

Herman / Scrumpy Dad

PS Next to prioritization techniques, I write about finding your purpose and reflecting on your personal growth in my new book, A Scrum Master’s Guide to Happiness.



Scrumpy Dad

Scrum Master & Agile Coach, passionate about personal development, applying work practices at home to build a happy family life.