When you’re confused and feeling stress about what to do next, you can quickly use the Value vs. Effort Matrix to get some clarity. There are a couple things to keep in mind for this exercise.
It’s not forever.
You can use this to think through priority, but it does not define you or your work. Use it, throw it away, try it again. It’s a great tool for fast frequent use. Things change. This is a great in-the-now tool, but it doesn’t set everything in concrete. It relies on your gut feelings. Trust your intuition.
Start, iterate, repeat.
This one is fast and furious.
Everything is relative
Humans are terrible at exact estimates. For example, how long would it take you exactly to fly from your nearest airport to Los Angeles, California? How long would it take you exactly to fly from your nearest airport to Milan Italy?
Maybe you can get the estimates to the hour. Or even quarter hour? But not exactly to the second. Too many variables, unknowns, and our brains typically don’t like to think this way.
However, you could probably answer this question much more easily and accurately… Which trip is faster, flying from your nearest airport to Los Angeles or to Milan?
So as you try this exercise, keep in mind that it is for right now. Not forever. And you need to think in relative terms. Not exactly how complex a particular thing is, but how much more or less complex a thing is compared to another.
Grad a scrap piece of paper, a napkin, or a marker and whiteboard. Draw a vertical line and a horizontal line across it. This is a basic 2D grid. Two axes and four quadrants. There are many uses for this format, and I have heard this referred to as “The Consultants Best Friend”.
You’ll see this again in different contexts later in the series.
In this case, the vertical line represents value. Lower value on the bottom, more near the top.
The horizontal line means effort or complexity. To the left is less effort, to the right is more.
Note: This is not time. Trying to predict the exact time is like the flight duration example above. But effort and complexity are better for relative estimation. For example if the thing you are interested in needs collaboration, how long will it take for your part plus your partner? That’s hard to answer. But noting that this particular thing has more effort and more complexity because of hand-offs and collaboration time is easier to understand.