A few months ago I had to tell a client of mine to slow down and rethink their development list. Everything was marked high priority and every new item became mission critical. Their web manager and I were running from task to task trying to get it done as fast as possible so we could move on to the next item. Finally we said enough is enough when a task came in that was of course high priority but had gone unnoticed for several years. No one actually used the section but on this day an employee just happened upon a misspelled word and alerted the marketing manager. Which was fine to do but it wasn’t a high priority.

How can we prioritize when everything is high priority? How is a misspelled word in a section that only gets a few visitor a month the same priority as a shopping cart bug that is causing the company to lose money on a regular basis? They aren’t the same. The shopping cart bug affects business by losing the business money. While the misspelled word, yes looks bad, isn’t going to affect business the same way.

To help prioritize we created a simple rating system. On the top of each task sheet we added a Neglection Impact rating and a place to add a reason to justify the rating. The Neglection Impact is rated 1 to 5 (High to Low).

5. No Impact.
4. Little Impact, Business Will Continue As Normal.
3. Business Will Be Interrupted, But Will Immediate Continue to Function as Normal.
2. Business Will Be Interrupted For a While or Won’t be able to Function as Normal.
1. Business Will Stop.

The marketing manager went back through the current task list and added a rating and reason. Turns out it was pretty hard to justify a number one rating for things like misspelled words. Most all the tasks fell into 2-4. Working off this system for a while we found that there were always enough rated 2 tasks that no other tasks were getting done. So we changed how we would do tasks. We would do a rated 2 task, then a rated 3 task, then a rated 2 task, then a rated 4 task. We found that doing it this way we would still get through the tasks while getting a break from difficult tasks. We actually started to accomplish more and feel less stress.

How do you prioritize your tasks? I’d love to heard about your solutions. Leave us a comment