What is Impact and Effort Matrix

Guide: Impact and Effort Matrix

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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Utilizing the Impact and Effort Matrix, you can evaluate tasks, projects, or ideas according to their impact and effort. You can find high-impact, low-effort activities and make effective decisions by plotting them on a matrix. With the help of this manual, you can efficiently prioritize your tasks and increase productivity by following the step-by-step instructions to create an Impact and Effort Matrix.


Table of Contents

The Impact and Effort Matrix, also known as a Prioritization Matrix or Urgent-Important Matrix is a decision-making tool that is in the form of a 4 Box grid or 2×2 Grid.

The matrix has two axes, which represent:

  • Impact: The potential positive impact or value a task or project could have to the business, process or project.
  • Effort: The amount of effort in terms of work, resources, or complexity required to complete the task or project.

Components of the Matrix

Quadrant 1: High Impact, Low Effort (Quick Wins)

These are the low-hanging fruits—tasks that are relatively easy to complete but have a significant positive impact. These should be your immediate focus.

Quadrant 2: High Impact, High Effort (Major Projects)

These tasks offer great returns but are resource-intensive. They often require detailed planning, and maybe even a dedicated team, to execute effectively, these would most likely form their own project.

Quadrant 3: Low Impact, Low Effort (Fill-Ins)

Tasks in this quadrant aren’t urgent or highly impactful, but they’re easy to achieve. These are good fill-in tasks for when teams have extra time or resources.

Quadrant 4: Low Impact, High Effort (Thankless Tasks)

These are tasks or projects that require a lot of resources but offer little in return. It’s generally advisable to either re-evaluate or avoid these tasks altogether.

Impact and Effort Matrix Template - Example Image - Learnleansigma

The concept has similarities to the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) which suggests that 80% of the impact comes from 20% of the effort. In the context of Lean Six Sigma, the impact/effort matrix is regularly used in the “Analyze” and “Improve” phases to decide which problems to solve first and which solutions to implement.

Step-by-Step guide to Impact and Effort Matrix

Creating an Impact and Effort Matrix is a simple process but one that requires thoughtful consideration. Here’s a step by step guide to follow the process:

Step 1: List all tasks or Project You Want to Prioritize

Create a complete list of all the tasks, project or activities that you are wanting to prioritize. You may already have this list or you could work with a cross-functional team to conduct a brainstorming session to compile the list. 

Step 2: Rate the Impact and Effort

Now that you have a list of actions, tasks or projects etc. to prioritize the next step is to quantify the “Impact” and “Effort” of each task so that they can be plotted on the matrix. These are usually rated on a numerical scale such as 1-5 or 1-10. We find the 1-10 scale gives more flexability in scoring. However, you could also fine with a choice of too many numbers more discussion between the team of the number and have hesitation such as “is it a 5 or is it a 6?” Where as 1-5 scale is a bit more clear in terms of high, medium, and low.

When scoring the impact ensure to consider the financial benefits, customer satisfaction and alignment to the businesses goals. When scoring the effort make sure you consider the time taken, human resources needed and budget that each task will require.

Step 3: Plot the Matrix

The next step is to visualize the rated list and compare the balance between impact and effort. This can be done by drawing 2×2 Grid or using a template. A method where you can adjust the results is recommended as you may score tasks you want to adjust later in the process. For example if you score something with a high impact early in the process you my find something later on the list actually has a higher impact and may therefore need to downgrade a task. Therefore an editable digital file or sticky notes on paper are useful. 

  • High Impact, Low Effort: Tasks in this quadrant are your “Quick Wins”.
  • High Impact, High Effort: These are your “Major Projects”.
  • Low Impact, Low Effort: These are “Fill-Ins”.
  • Low Impact, High Effort: These are “Thankless Tasks”.


Step 4: Analyze and Prioritize

The next step is to identify which tasks should be prioritized or deprioritized based on their placement on the matrix. Examine the tasks in each quadrant to decide which should be done first, but in general the ones close to the top right which are high impact and low effort should be done first. Conversely, the high effort low impact may not be done at all. 

The general rules are:

  • Start with “Quick Wins” for immediate impact.
  • Plan for “Major Projects” and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Use “Fill-Ins” when resources are idle.
  • Avoid “Thankless Tasks” or consider for elimination.

Step 5: Review and Update

If the activities are ongoing it may be relevant to periodically review and update the matrix over time. Tasks will be completed potential new ones could be added so the matrix would need to be updated to reflect that.

Download Impact and Effort Matrix Template

Feel free to download the premade Impact and effort matrix from our download section to support you with task prioritization. 

Impact and Effort Matrix Template - Feature Image - Learnleansigma


In conclusion, the Impact and Effort Matrix is an useful tool for making data-driven decisions about task prioritization. By using a simple 2×2 grid, you can visualize and categorize tasks into four quadrants: Quick Wins, Major Projects, Fill-Ins, and Thankless Tasks. This facilitates easy identification of tasks that yield the highest impact with the least effort, thus aligning with principles such as the Pareto 80/20 rule. Regularly updating the matrix ensures it remains a dynamic, relevant tool for effective resource allocation.


A: An Impact and Effort Matrix is a visual tool used to assess and prioritize tasks, projects, or ideas based on their potential impact and the effort required to implement them. It helps individuals or teams make informed decisions by evaluating the relationship between impact and effort for each task.

A: An Impact and Effort Matrix works by plotting tasks on a two-dimensional grid. The vertical axis represents the impact, indicating the potential outcome or significance of a task. The horizontal axis represents the effort required, considering factors such as time, resources, expertise, or complexity. By assessing and assigning impact and effort scores, tasks are plotted on the matrix, allowing for visual analysis and prioritization.

A: Using an Impact and Effort Matrix provides several benefits. It helps in identifying high-impact, low-effort tasks that should be prioritized. It promotes objective decision-making based on data-driven evaluations. It facilitates resource allocation by highlighting tasks with the most significant impact. Additionally, it increases efficiency by focusing efforts on tasks that deliver the greatest results.

A: Assessing impact and effort requires careful consideration. To determine impact, define specific criteria aligned with your goals and objectives, such as revenue generation, customer satisfaction, or time savings. Evaluate each task based on these criteria and assign impact scores. For assessing effort, consider factors like time, resources, expertise, and complexity. Assign effort scores based on the relative commitment and resources required for each task.

A: The positions of tasks on the Impact and Effort Matrix indicate their prioritization. Tasks in the top left quadrant (high impact, low effort) should be given the highest priority, as they offer significant impact with minimal effort. Tasks in the bottom right quadrant (low impact, high effort) should be deprioritized or reconsidered. The other two quadrants can be evaluated based on specific circumstances and goals.

A: The Impact and Effort Matrix should be regularly reviewed and updated as new tasks, projects, or information become available. It is recommended to revisit the matrix when there are changes in priorities, goals, or resource availability. By keeping the matrix up-to-date, you ensure that it remains a relevant and effective tool for prioritization and decision-making.

A: The Impact and Effort Matrix can be used for both personal tasks and projects. It is a versatile tool applicable to various scenarios, including personal goal setting, time management, and project planning. Whether you are organizing your daily tasks or managing a complex project, the matrix can help prioritize and allocate your resources efficiently.


Picture of Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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