“Everybody has 24 hours and the question is, what do you do with your 24 hours? That’s what makes everybody equal.” — Stedman Graham
We all have the same 24 hours a day. But some people seem to outperform others by a large factor. Why is that? One explanation for this is task prioritization. World-class founders are exceptionally good at prioritizing their time and exclusively focusing on what matters most to move them forward in their entrepreneurial journey. In this article, I want to outline a simple, yet effective technique to prioritize your tasks.
The premise of the ExI technique is to consider two relevant dimensions to any tasks you might want to do: Effort (E) & Impact (I).
In principle, you need to assign a score from 1–5 for every task for effort and impact respectively.
A 1 for effort means that you can do this task in a matter of minutes whereas a 5 means this task will take you a couple of days. If your task will take longer than this, it’s not a task but rather a project.
Similarly, for impact, your will rate the task with a 1 if the impact is minimal and with a 5 if it’s significant. Impact can be defined as the effect this task will have on your primary business metric (e.g. revenue, user growth, etc.). However, keep in mind that some tasks can be impactful without directly impacting your primary metrics.
Based on these two ratings for effort & impact, an ExI score is derived. This score represents the relative importance of your task taking into account effort & impact. The higher the score, the more important the task is which means the more you prioritize it.
Your ratings for effort (E) and impact (I) can be combined in a number that I like to call the ExI score. There is some basic math involved, but I’ll show you how to automate this process later on.
Firstly, you need to inverse the score for effort. There is a simple formula you can use to accomplish that.
Inverse of effort (EI) = E * -1 + 6
Next, you simply multiply the inverse effort score with the impact score to get your ExI score.
ExI = EI * I
That’s it! If you do this for all the tasks on your task list, you will get a relative measure of their respective importance to your progress.
It is of course tedious to calculate the ExI score by hand. That’s why there are different tools you can use to automate that process.
With spreadsheet-like software, you can easily replicate the formula of the ExI score to automatically calculate adjusted values. In Google Sheets or Excel, you can simply type in a new formula after listing your tasks. Similarly, you can use the formula field type in Airtable to achieve the same. Simply copy the formula below into your favorite tool:
(E * -1 + 6) * I
Make sure to replace E and I respectively with references to the right fields where the numbers are stored.
As many people nowadays work in Notion to manage pretty much everything, it would be cool to implement the ExI technique into it. Luckily, it’s easier than you might think. First, create a new table-type database. Next, add number fields for “Effort” and “Impact” (! Name them exactly like that to make the formula below work). Lastly, add a new formula field and paste the formula below into it
(prop(“Effort”) * -1 + 6) * prop(“Impact”)
Done! You can also add a sort filter to automatically see the tasks with the highest ExI score first.
A common problem with any task management technique or tool is that people tend to stop using it after a while. Tasks pile up, things are not documented, it simply stops working. Like it or not, it’s in human nature to conserver energy (aka. Being lazy). So here’s a way to fix it:
The magic 14-letter word is drum roll: Accountability. If you want to stick to this technique and make a difference in your effectiveness, you need to hold yourself accountable. The best way to do this is through weekly review meetings.
“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” — Moliere
Grab yourself a colleague, co-founder, or friend. Then, review your long list of tasks together. Rate the new items that may have been added throughout the week. Adjust existing scores. Discuss the impacts of the tasks. After you’re done, you should have an up-to-date task list with ExI scores that match reality. This allows you to then focus on the wildly important tasks and move forward much more quickly.
At wespond, my co-founder Benedikt and I do this at the end of each week together while also assigning tasks. This ensures that we’re aligned, transparent about our priorities, and focused on what matters. Further, it’s insightful to discuss our reasoning behind given scores for Impact or Effort. This is a healthy discourse that allows us to not only keep a healthy co-founder relationship but also improve every week.
There you have it. A nerdy, but powerful method to prioritize your tasks more effectively. The ExI technique forces you to think about the effort and impact independently and allows you to see the full picture of a task. The ExI score then enables you to make better decisions on what to work on right now, and what to postpone. I hope you enjoyed these little insights into how we work at wespond. Now go out there, and make a dent in the universe.