How to prioritize your activities to do the ones that drive the biggest return for your time

Vilfredo Pareto

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It’s a fantastic law of nature first observed by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1896. After noticing that 20% of his crops produced 80% of the harvest he pondered if this could be true for human activity as well. Pareto discovered that it was. Through a simple observation he uncovered what economists now refer to as the 80/20 rule.

When you’re wearing 5 hats, serving your clients, answering emails, and scrambling to stay on top of your tasks its very easy to go through a week having done a lot without doing anything to help improve the business itself.

If you were to take account of the possible tasks you could do in a week, you would see that some of them will have a big impact on the growth of your business while the rest barely move the needle at all.

In fact we now know that less than 20% of your activities account for 80% of the results you want. This begs the question, are you prioritizing the right activities? The people that consistently grow their business have developed a knack for getting the stuff that matters done, no matter what.

But how do you know which task is going to have the biggest impact?

Fortunately there’s a really simple framework created by Sean Ellis known as ICE. Sean Ellis was Dropbox’s first full-time marketer as the company exploded in growth. 

Dropbox growth curve after implementing the ICE framework

Doing the right things is more important than doing things right.

Mark Suster

When I first heard of the ICE framework, I began implementing it immediately. It was so easy.

ICE stands for Impact, Confidence and Effort. 

To use the ICE model, first you need a goal. Let’s say you plan to grow your business by 10 extra deals this year. That’s a good target.

Impact: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much of impact will this task/idea have on the goal.

Confidence: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much experience do you have with this task and did it work before? Have you tried this task before? Did it work? If the answer is no, give it a 1. If the answer is yes and it worked give it a 9.

Effort: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much time will this task take? If you’re working with a team, sometimes you have to ask the personal responsible to give you an estimate.

Then simply add up the numbers and divide them by 3. That will give you an average score. Sort all your ideas by the score and you will have a list of items that you implement in your business in order of the biggest impact.

All you have to do now is prioritize that task each week. No matter the tornado of your daily tasks, get it done. Look back at the end of the year and you will see your business has grown.

Here’s an example of the ICE framework in action.

Task/IdeaImpactConfidenceEffortScore
Setup FB lead generation9636
Host an open house4233

Passionate about helping leaders grow their business, Jonathan Whiting is co-founder of StreetText. In addition to StreetText Hub, Jonathan has written for TechVibes and REM Magazine.

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