The carer's priority matrix
I discovered the priority matrix at a difficult time in my work. I was swamped. Despite working long hours, my list of tasks mounted up. Colleagues encouraged me to offload work, but I struggled to see who could help. I believed everything needed to be done immediately, and by me.
Recently, on a virtual cuppa I heard almost the exact same story from members of the community. It reminded me that there is a helpful tool which helped me navigate my task nightmare and establish priorities. I hope it might help you too.
Enter the priority matrix
Easy to use and low tech, the matrix can be applied to any task list that you have. It helps you divide up your tasks and decide how to tackle them.
Take a sheet of paper and sketch out the grid below.
Your grid is divided into four sections which we'll get into in a moment. First a quick note on the difference between important and urgent.
Important vs urgent
The difference between these two is subtle, but crucial for success with this tool. Importance refers to priority and attention whereas urgency refers to timeliness.
So section by section let's run through the classification.
Important and urgent - do now
Generally this is for tasks that must be done immediately and really need YOUR attention. No one else can do these tasks and they cannot wait.
This could be something important like ordering medication, or completing a form that must be returned by an imminent date.
Important but not urgent - schedule
This box is about getting ahead with your tasks and having an idea of what needs to be done in the future. If it is not urgent, it doesn't need to be completed immediately. So if you have something that needs to be done in three weeks, but you are worried about forgetting it, pop it in this box. Then schedule some time or set a reminder for a point in the future.
Not important and urgent - delegate
This is where the matrix gets to be it's most useful. My top tip here is not to think of tasks you can delegate - instead focus on the headings. Not important and urgent tasks are items which don't need your particular attention but definitely need doing.
This could be the washing, or cleaning, or going shopping. Could you find someone to help with these? If you are in a position to, could you pay someone to help? Would these being taken care of mean that you might be able to focus on the important tasks, that only you can do?
Not important and not urgent - don't do!
Potentially my favourite category of task. Normally reserved for that thing that has been on your to do list for ages. If you haven't done it yet, do you need to? Or do you feel that you should?
Pen and paper may be the easiest way to work out your priority matrix but if you want to add some technology to help with reminders you could try one of the following:
Smart speakers - great for creating lists and setting reminders using voice commands. More information can be found in our article on digital skills for carers.
A smartphone - most smartphones have an in built personal assistant. Apple has Siri, Google has 'ok Google', Samsung has bixby. They can perform a range of tasks like setting alarms, creating reminders or taking notes.
To-Do App - a great program that works on all devices and using an internet browser too. You can create multiple lists (maybe one for each of the priority classifications on the matrix). Lists can be shared with people so you can collaborate. Very easy to use, find out more.
Have a go and let us know
Take a moment and a brew and have a go for yourself. You can't really get it wrong and we hope you find a few things out about your task list that help.
Let us know how you get on by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org