A practical guide to 10× your value using an ease/impact matrix

Justin San Juan
5 min readDec 2, 2022

At any point in our lives, we should be aiming to make the most value out of our efforts. Whether value is defined as maximizing your salary, personal enjoyment, or chances of a successful startup, we want to find out what the best actions are to take to move ourselves as far as possible forward in our lives.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

We want to propel ourselves forward as best as we can

For example, we would not want to spend 3 months of our lives working on a project in a company that just accomplishes one thing for one client if we could execute on another venture that can impact more customers in the same amount of time, or can be done more easily.

If you cut off all the tasks in your work that have low potential for impact or are too difficult to do, then you can 10× the value of all of your effort.

There are many other articles on what an ease/impact matrix is, but none of them guide you in filling one out. This one does.

The challenge is uncertainty

Even if you have a number of options, for example, project A, B, and C, that each have different potentials and effort needed, in most cases, it is difficult to say which is the best one right off the bat.

The source of mistakes when picking our course of action is uncertainty of either the impact or the ease of implementation of for a project. Our goal then should be to minimize uncertainty.

In this article, a potential project is a direction or rough idea aimed at solving a specific problem.

The rest of this article is written in likeness of a troubleshooting article, which lists practical steps to identifying the best action to take.

An ease/impact matrix plots projects in the dimensions of ease and impact, but how do we define these?

A blank Ease/Impact matrix

To start placing items on the graph, we need to ask two questions: how impactful is it? and how easy is it to complete?

Here are a few helpful questions to ask when determining “impact”:

  • Is it a novel, structural architectural change? If yes, there is a better chance that it will have a huge impact.
  • How much people are impacted by it?
  • How frequently are people impacted by it?
  • Are people spending money on this problem already / is there a good history validating that this problem exists?

Meanwhile, here are some questions to ask when determining “ease”:

  • What is a good set of date ranges to divide these tasks? Set at most 3 ranges of dates such as: up to 1 week, up to 4 weeks, over 4 weeks.
  • How long can you do it? This is primarily based on your experience and intuition.
  • Can someone else do it for you?
  • How long can someone else do it?

Remember to keep it simple

After placing a few items down, it may be tempting to ask whether working on some project will make other projects easier, but it is often more important to focus on the items individually to make a decision sooner than later.

What if you are still unsure?

If you have a gut feeling and indecisiveness on how impactful or easy a project is, treat it as a signal to get more information.

Ways you can get more information for impact include:

  • Ask relevant audience members about their experience with the problem.
  • Look up relevant numbers such as potential market size, current spendings.
  • Estimate the benefit by modelling the effect of a project in an equation. For example, if a project can reduce the time for customers waiting in line, we can design an equation that outputs how much added revenue (sales) can be acheived for some amount of reduction in time.

To get a better idea of ease:

  • Ask experienced workers that have implemented similar projects
  • Research relevant durations if possible. For example, you can search the duration of some related projects in freelance websites.
  • Look at the cost of similar projects as another signal on ease of implementation.

When should you pick off a project?

Once you have plotted each of your current potential projects, you can then think of picking one. However, the only time you should pick off a project at this point in time is when you have one on the top-right corner of the matrix.

If not, it may be a good idea to take time and identify more potential projects.

Meanwhile, if you already believe you have all your choices on the board, you may think about picking a project on the top area or the right side of the chart.

If the project is on the top area and more towards the left, you believe the project has potential for high impact but can be difficult to achieve. You may then consider onboarding more experienced people to work on the project.

If the project is on the right side of the graph and more towards the bottom, you may want to consider delegating to lower-cost labour, or automating it.

Do this regularly and you will develop intuition

The first time you use an ease/impact matrix is not necessarily easy. You may find that there are a lot of unknowns. However, the more you use it, the faster you will be as you develop intuition for different problems and their relevance to your projects.

Overall, it is important to identify what your next actions should be to maximize your value.

Conclusion

This article describes practical steps and questions to ask yourself in order to use an ease/impact matrix. The matrix helps you prioritize what your next action should be to maximize the value you create.

If you enjoyed this article or learned something from it, I would greatly appreciate your clap!

If you have anything to suggest, let me know in the comments or message me on LinkedIn.

--

--

Justin San Juan

Award-Winning Software Engineer | Business and Web Consultant