I downloaded a great new app for my iPad called Priority Matrix, which allows you to create lists divided into four customizable panes, or quadrants.
What’s a Priority Matrix?
A classical priority matrix takes two qualities — like Urgency and Importance, for example — and creates four boxes blending the extremes of these qualities:
2) Not Urgent / Important
3) Urgent / Not Important
4) Not Urgent / Not Important
In fact, many people use this exact priority matrix to a manage their to-do lists. A last-minute request from your boss might fall into the “Urgent/Important” category, while “Sort my desk drawers” could be filed under “Not Urgent/Not Important.”
A Matrix for Prioritizing Future Projects
I already have a system for managing my to-do’s, but I have become interested in the idea of using a priority matrix to rate and organize other ideas — like which project I should choose from an ever-expanding list of possible personal projects. For this exercise, I created my own priority matrix exploring level of interest vs. level of expertise:
1) High Interest / High Expertise
2) Low Interest / High Expertise
3) High Interest / Low Expertise
4) Low Interest / Low Expertise
Here’s the thinking behind this exercise: life is short. My personal, discretionary time is limited. At 45 years old, doesn’t it make sense to spend that limited time doing I’m both very interested in … and very well qualified to do?
Eliminate Low Interest / Low Expertise Projects
You aren’t interested. You aren’t qualified. Life’s short. Why waste your time?
Reconsider Low Interest / High Expertise Projects
There were many Tarot-related projects on my to-do list. Many have lingered there for ages.
But when I forced myself to plug those projects into this matrix, I found myself admitting, again and again, that, while I have lots of Tarot expertise, I now have very little interest in Tarot. I’ve kept these projects on my list of possible projects out of nostalgia or obligation … but, honestly, if I have very little interest in pursuing them … why pour energy into them?
The fact I do something well (or did something in the past) doesn’t obligate me to keep doing it.
Be Realistic about High Interest / Low Expertise Projects
I have very strong opinions about the impact of technology on the publishing industry. I’m obsessed with the amazing tools available to self-publishers today.
But, so far, I haven’t self-published a book, and I don’t have any success with self-publishing to back up my beliefs about it. Given my high level of interest and low expertise in self-publishing, I’m not currently positioned to, say, be a self-publishing guru or start a self-publishing blog.
There’s no harm in being interested in anything — but, at some point, it’s probably in my best interest to decide whether my interest in self-publishing is strong enough to merit any significant investment of energy and attention. Doing so will also mean owning my own lack of expertise, and taking steps to address that (by contacting experts, integrating myself into a community of self-publishers, and by actually self-publishing a project or two, for example).
Place a Higher Priority on High Interest / High Expertise Items
After working hard to be brutally honest, I found myself with the following items in my High Interest / High Expertise quad:
– Creative writing. (This includes a list of four or five novels that have been banging around in my head for ages, including the science fiction novels I’ve always wanted to write, but never pursued, mostly because the college program I studied in pooh-poohed genre fiction.)
– Multimedia production. I love thinking of ways to take information and convert it into a story or experience that will communicate a specific message to a specific audience.
– Leading workshops / Public speaking. I love this. I’m good at this. I miss this. People seem to enjoy themselves a great deal with I do this. So I need to seek out more opportunities to make use of this gift.
– Travel. When I asked MadeByMark readers to tell me what they thought I should be doing, an amazing number of people asked, “Why in the world aren’t you a travel writer?” After doing some digging, and discovering that MadeByMark readership *skyrockets* whenever I write about the places Clyde and I travel to, I’m asking myself the same thing.
– Carving out your personal spirituality. This journey is still ongoing for me, but I’ve learned some things along the way that others seem to value. I’ve escaped fundamentalism and found my own peaceful place … which is something that a lot of people are trying to do, I think. If I could find clever, engaging ways to deliver a “How To” on this topic, it could help a lot of people.
Try It Yourself
For me, this turned out to be an exercise that has real potential to change the course of my future. And you don’t need fancy software for it. Make your own list of possible personal projects, sketch out your own Interest vs. Expertise matrix, and invest half an hour in a frank, honest dialog with yourself. The results may surprise you.