Time Management easily done – Prioritize!

Time is a crucial issue everywhere – in private and professional life. Especially in big projects a lack of time often causes issues and hinders the project to finish within the given deadline. Well, to be honest – Is it really about the lacking time?

We know how much hours a day has and how many days a month got and so on… We mostly roughly know what we will be doing at work and kind of what the final product has to be like and when to deliver it. The real issues come up when product features or customers’ needs change confuse our perfectly written plan. That’s when time suddenly gets rare.

This is the reason why the business world currently faces a shift to more flexible and quickly adoptable frameworks such as Scrum or SAFe. This is why organizations become more agile.

A big part of being agile means you are flexible and able to adopt to change. However, you still need to deliver certain products to your customer and create value for your own firm but also the client’s business. The key to deliver value in fast changing environments is to deliver value incrementally.

You do not start off with a big five-years plan but rather roughly figure out what the product might be like. It is more like formulating a vision. Thereby, you can easily adopt to changing requirements on the way without throwing away hours of intense planning. Not planning is no option either, but that’s a different topic.

One question remains: If things change so fast, how to figure out what is important to do right now?

Deciding on the most crucial tasks is very important itself. Prioritizing effectively is the core of a well-functioning agile project – and you would be surprised which tasks identify themselves as important to do and which ones (you might though you’ll go down if not done) are in fact pretty unimportant.

We got two prioritization methods coming for you. The most common method to use in agile projects is Weighted-Shortest-Job-First (WSJF).


Weighted-Shortest-Job-First Method

This method is based on relative estimates of certain aspects of a task which when put in a specific formula reveal how to prioritize them.

Estimating is relative, just like using planning poker in Scrum when seizing user stories. The numbers are also the same, 0,1,2,3,5,8,13,20. The bigger the number the higher you value that certain aspect of the task. So, what are the formula’s ingredients?


  1. Business Value

This value is your judgement of user preferences of the diverse items and what you think creates most value to the business or client. It doesn’t mean all items which score high on business value are automatically the most important ones. Sometimes you can create more value in shorter time with a couple of tasks combined, because one job just takes too long no matter its high business value it might create or the tasks with lower business value would be very detrimental if not acted upon.


  1. Time Criticality

The second part of the WSJF Formula is about whether you think the customer will wait for this task to be done or moves to a competitor if the job is not quickly completed. Time criticality also includes possible milestones or fixed dates, such as e.g. government laws which might impact the job.


  1. Risk Reduction / Opportunity Enablement

Third, you have to question yourself if this job prevents any future or current risk, or allows to follow new business opportunities in future if undertaken.


These three aspects together represent the ‘Cost of Delay’ (COD). To get your final WSJF-value you will divide the COD by the Duration of the job, or job size. The job’s duration is also estimated in relative terms with the same numbers of planning poker as used before. It is not about actual job size but more estimated one.

This is how the formula looks like:

Here is an example:

Hence, you would go for job 1 first though it has only the second highest business value.

The WSJF-method can take pretty long though depending on how many people are involved and how different opinions are. Also top management has to commit to its results. Sometimes they might not get the output they hoped for… If you need a prioritized list a bit quicker or just for more casual work items, the Eisenhower-Matrix is another nice, established option.



The Eisenhower-Matrix basically relies on the two questions: Is it important? Is the job urgent to be done? Depending on the answers to these questions, the task can be in either one of four categories: Decide, Do Today, Delete, Delegate.

Decide: This task is important, but not urgent (yet). Schedule a time for when you do it.

Do Today: This task is important and urgent. You should put it on your To-Do-List for today.

Delete: This Task is not important nor urgent. This means, you should not do it. However, it does not literally mean ‘delete the task’. Especially in fast changing environments your requirements can alter just as quick and suddenly a job which has been in the ‘delete’ corner for two weeks, suddenly becomes important. Rather ‘pause’ them and put them down on your prioritized list.

Delegate: This task is not important but urgent. Can someone else do it for you?

This Matrix is a good first step to get your stuff sorted and focus on the important jobs. However, try to stay objective and do not pause tasks or put them high in value simply, because you like to.

If you keep your prioritized list updated you will make sure you always do the most important jobs and hence, deliver the most value possible in a given time frame.

Sure if you work 12 hours a day you can create even more value, but time management is about sorting the right things into the right slots and not about losing sleep, so prioritize, organise and manage your tasks and time. Easy with these tools!

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