How to Weigh and Track Your Project Priorities

Discover everything you need to know about how to weigh and track projects at work

November 14, 2022
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Most projects fail. 

In fact, a measly 2.5% of businesses complete all of their projects successfully.

And a big reason is that most organizations don’t know how to prioritize projects properly – or track their progress once they’re underway.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to weigh and track projects at work – as well as roll with the punches when priorities change. 

What are a project’s priorities?

In most organizations, a project’s priorities change depending on who you ask.

But the most effective businesses have mastered the art of putting personal agendas aside and focusing on what’s going to get the project over the line on time and within budget.

They do this by understanding that every project has three elements: cost, time, and scope.

And that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you’re going to need to compromise on at least one of these elements.

Here’s the thing: 

  • If your project has a hard deadline, you’re probably going to need to bring in freelancers – or reduce the scope to get it over the line.
  • If your project has a strict budget, you should plan for having to shrink its scope – or accept it’s going to take as long as it takes with the manpower you have to hand.
  • If you’ve got no wiggle-room when it comes to the features you’re going to need to ship, you might have to throw more money at the problem – or extend the deadline.

Leaders that get things done do one thing differently: they agree on which of these three elements are negotiable – and which are the priorities – before a project begins.

So, the first thing you need to do before you launch any project is get clear on where you have wiggle room when it inevitably doesn’t go to plan.

Of course, keep Parkinson's law – the adage that work expands to fill whatever time you allot for it – in mind here. If your team knows a project’s “real” deadline is a month after the one they’re working towards… don’t be surprised when the project ends up being shipped a month “late”.

While stakeholders need to agree on what levers can be pulled if the project goes off track, project managers need to set out as if all three elements are non-negotiable to have the best chances of wrapping things up on time and within budget.

Book a demo of Assembly to streamline weighing and tracking your organization’s projects.

How do you assess project priority?

One of the most effective techniques for prioritizing projects comes from an unusual source: a former U.S. president.

The Eisenhower matrix – named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five-star General who served as both the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 – is a simple way to balance priorities.

And it works so well because it’s so intuitive.

Here’s how it works:

The Eisenhower MatrixCC BY-SA 4.0
  1. Write out a numbered list of all your projects.
  2. Draw an Eisenhower matrix (like the example above).
  3. Plot each task on the simple matrix based on how urgent and important it is.

And that’s it! 

You can use an Eisenhower matrix to quickly weigh up:

  • Which projects you should be prioritizing as an organization.
  • Which tasks you should be prioritizing within each project. 
  • Which to-dos your reports should be prioritizing this week.

Book a demo of Assembly to make it easy for your teams to quickly and easily create their own Eisenhower matrixes.

What are the four levels of prioritizing tasks?

Once you’ve plotted them on your Eisenhower matrix, you’ll be able to see at a glance which projects your team should be focusing their time and attention on.

The next step is to break your projects down into the four levels of prioritization to understand your next steps. These are determined by which quadrant of your Eisenhower matrix they sit in:

Urgent and important

These projects need to be at the very top of your to-do list. Make it a priority to get them done, and don’t spend time on other tasks until they are.

Important but not urgent

These are the things that most organizations overlook. But you’ll have a good chance of overtaking your competition if you can give them the time and attention they deserve. 

Urgent but not important

Most businesses spend far too much time on projects that fall into this quadrant. These feel important because they’re time sensitive – but when you analyze it, they’re not actually going to get your business any closer to bringing its vision to life. The most successful leaders learn to recognise when a project isn’t truly important and push it to the bottom of their team’s list of priorities.  

Not urgent or important

It’s amazing how many tasks that regularly occupy space on your teammates' to-do lists fall into this quadrant of an Eisenhower matrix. A survey revealed that more than 54% of workers spend most of their time on tedious tasks that require no creativity and could be handled by a less expensive resource. Let running through this exercise be a wake-up call and add those tasks to a “do not do” list, instead. 

Cost, time, and scope

Remember the three elements every project has from above? Cost, time, and scope all come into play here as well. The most effective teams are a lot more open to increasing the budget or extending the timeline of an important project than one that’s fallen in the third or fourth priority tier. Fail to make this distinction yourself and you could run into trouble.

How do you keep track of priorities?

Getting to grips with how much of a priority each project should be with an Eisenhower matrix is the first step to working more effectively.

Of course, businesses aren’t static. How “urgent” and “important” each project on your plate can change overnight. Your list of priorities therefore isn’t worth the pixels it’s taking up on your screen if it can’t shift when things change. 

Luckily, Assembly can help you navigate changes as effectively as possible:

  • Employee surveys empower your people with the tools they need to feed back on things that might affect how you weigh your priorities. 
  • The group feed and executive updates make it easy to keep your people in the loop around shifting priorities. 
  • Workflows can quickly be amended to reflect the ever-changing situation.

Whatever project management system you adopt, it needs to be flexible. The easier it is to change when priorities shift, the faster your team will be back on track and firing on all cylinders to achieve your company's goals.

Try Assembly to make keeping your organization on the same page about your shift priorities as easy as possible.

The final word

Learn how to focus your team’s time and attention on the right projects – and make sure they’re on track every step of the way – and you’ll make a huge difference on your business’s bottom line.

Use the tips and tools we’ve outlined here to make sure you and your team are always working on the projects that deserve to be top priority.

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There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

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