An easy way to prioritize your work

If your day is anything like mine, the first thing you see when you get into work is probably a wall of unread emails in your inbox. And if you are anything like me, you probably wonder what the meaning of it all is, as you prepare yourself to go through your mail and see what you missed. We’ve all been there; our plates full and unsure where to begin.

Not all issues are created equal, however, and it’s up to you to decide what order you tackle them in. What you need is an order that makes sense and ensures the best use of your time. And that’s where the Eisenhower Matrix comes in.


The Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix is actually rather simple. It lets you take any issue and slot it into one of four quadrants in the box. To do this, you have to evaluate the issue for A, its urgency and B, its importance. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This method of time management is attributed to this quote of his and is an excellent way to understand where the priority of any given issue stands.

For instance, on a given work-day, this is what your work might look like:


The grey area of customer support

When you’re on a support team, especially when you’re handling B2B support, problems aren’t always that black and white. It’s like you’re the fire-marshall and most parts of the town are burning – how do you decide which fires to put out first? Any given issue can have a number of factors dictating its priority, and the definitions of urgency and importance are also likely to vary across businesses. But you can usually narrow it down to four main things:

  • The channel used
  • The value of the customer
  • The mood of the customer
  • The impact of the situation

Further complicating matters is the fact that the impact of a situation is variable and can be hard to predict. For example, if your service is experiencing an outage, that’s a potentially massive impact whether anybody’s noticed it yet or not. Or, if you’ve committed to a 30-day return policy, then keeping that promise takes priority. The potential impact of a given situation can really only be assessed through the lens of your company’s objectives.

But forget the outliers for a moment; outages are not something that happen everyday. And you’re not likely to miss 30-day windows on a regular basis either. But there is an endless myriad of small and large things that require your undivided attention each day. How do you prioritize them?

The most important thing you need to start prioritizing is to be clear on what your support team’s goals are. If your team’s goal for the quarter is to reduce the number of tickets coming in, you’d spend some time sprucing up your knowledge base and directing customers to it. It’s about setting the right expectations; but always remember that customers have their own expectations too.

If they send you an email, they’d be okay with waiting a bit longer to receive a response. But on social media, they’d like swifter replies; and with live chat, immediate responses.

So if you set your SLAs to something along the lines of 24 hours for email, 4 hours for social and 15 minutes for chat, you can look at the channel the customer has chosen and answer the question of urgency right there. As for the question of importance, take a look at the issue that’s being reported – how many people does it affect, and how big will the fallout be? Answering these questions help you immediately assess a ticket and decide into which box it goes.

customer support

Now after this if two or more tickets fall into the same box, you can use the mood of the customer and their value to prioritize further.

Productivity is not one-size-fits-all. Making the most of your time doesn’t work the same way for everyone. But knowing where to start is definitely the first step. Once you have your issues categorized by their importance and urgency, you can, with nothing more than a glance, confidently decide what needs your attention next. When you streamline the way you work, you’ll find yourself doing more in the same amount of time.


More than just a professional aid

This nifty little matrix can not only help you organize your ticket management system but also make it easier for your team to getting their personal priorities straight. If you have a chart that lists your priorities somewhere you can see regularly, you can keep yourself on track for where you want to be at any given time. You can actually make the claim “new year = new me” a reality.


We hope that you now have an idea of where to begin when you’re sitting down to chip away at your sizeable pile of work. To better visualise your support workload, you can download this handy questionnaire that we put together and start slotting in the issues you’re aiming to solve. If it worked for a President of the United States, there has to be something there, right? Also tell us how you prioritize your work. A burning house or a kitten stuck up a tree, where do you go first? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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