What are the models of prioritization?

What are the models of prioritization?

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What factors make one prioritize a task higher another ones? What are some models about it?

Note that I'm not asking what makes one wants to do a thing. That's motivation, and there are plenty of models behind it. Here I presume the subject already has motivation to do a task, and I just want to examine when they will do that task, given there are other motivated tasks alongside.

The Eisenhower matrix is a good start, as it indicates two factors: importance and urgency. However, I think there are more to this.

4. Separate tasks with similar priorities using the ABCDE method

While the Ivy Lee method is great for prioritizing daily tasks, there’s still one part that’s unclear: How do you know the “true importance” of a task?

The biggest unknown when it comes to how to prioritize is differentiating between tasks that feel like they’re on the same level of importance. When you’re working on complex tasks or juggling multiple roles, the Pareto Principle and Eisenhower Matrix don’t totally cut it.

Here’s where Brian Tracy’s ABCDE method works wonders. Instead of keeping all tasks on a single level of priority, this method offers two or more levels for each task.

  • Go through your list and give every task a letter from A to E (A being the highest priority)
  • For every task that has an A, give it a number which dictates the order you’ll do it in
  • Repeat until all tasks have letters and numbers

Again, this is a deceptively simple prioritization strategy. While in most cases it’s almost impossible to differentiate between a B1 task and an A3 one, by giving each task multiple layers of prioritization their true importance suddenly becomes much clearer.

Prioritization: Time Management Advice to Empower Your Success

Countless books have been written on prioritization and time management, yet my experience is that most people often spend time doing things that are not a high priority. You may think you are making progress simply because you are busy. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, busyness can keep you from accomplishing anything meaningful by giving you a false feeling of accomplishment while stealing your time. To reach your goals and achieve success, you must focus effort on your priorities, those things that are truly impactful and important to you.

Problem 1: failure to launch

The first manifestation of not detaching from the maternal world is simply a difficulty or a refusal to definitively enter the world of men. Usually this happens when the white knight’s father fails to model masculine, outward-facing dominion, or isn’t a strong enough force in his life to bring him along into the masculine world, against the retentive nurture of his mother.

This is exacerbated by the lack of coming-of-age rituals in modern society the absence of defined points at which boys become men, combined with a lack of fatherly guidance, leaves them foundering in a Peter Pan state where manhood becomes an alien condition—&ldquoadulting.”

This has dire consequences for white knights:

Low-grade fear of masculinity and manhood as the “other”

White knights have trouble identifying with the masculine. They tend to be risk-averse, and prefer security to freedom. They will also rationalize their distaste for traditionally masculine pursuits like football or hunting as a kind of enlightenment, placing themselves in their minds into a more evolved category than their neanderthal brethren. If this sounds rather like a nerds v. jocks thing, that is not entirely wrong.

Ultimately, however, this is a low-grade fear and loathing of their own natures—which makes white knights emotionally unstable, and tends to manifest in depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors.

Socially feminized behavior

Because they identify with the feminine and did not learn to enter, or at least fully embrace, the masculine world, white knights tend to eschew agonistic discourse in favor of more covert modes of interaction. This is especially true in real life, where confrontation is physically intimidating. This causes them to instinctively deal with threats through subterfuge and ostracization, rather than confrontation and competition and it makes them very afraid to be ostracized in turn.

It also results in a skewed ability to assess threats in the first place because they prioritize herd integrity over gaining mastery, challenges or disagreements are not seen as an opportunity to sharpen iron, but rather as a danger to the harmony of the group. White knights would rather have a veneer of unity enforced through social hegemony, than a true bond of unity forged through struggle. They are fundamentally cliquey.

Prioritization of feelings over facts

This in turn leads to filtering truth claims—and especially ones with moral import—by how these make the white knight feel, and especially by how they affect the mood of some in-group, rather than by their correspondence to objective standards. The question of whether something is right or wrong, true or false, becomes reduced to the question of whether it upsets or pleases the people at the top of the white knight’s social hierarchy.

Female affirmation-seeking

These impulses lead to an intense dependence on female approval for the white knight’s own sense of self-worth and self-security an external locus of control where every woman is potentially a surrogate mother, and must be deferred to and defended accordingly.

Perversely, however, this must be synthesized with the white knight’s sex drive, which is generally vigorous, like any man’s. He instinctively understands the male burden of performance, and so he thirstily performs for the attention of any and every woman he finds at all attractive. Even if he marries, his pathologies compel him to continue performing as much as he is outraged by the idea of adultery, he cannot help seeking the affirmation of other women. For more socially able white knights, this often manifests in the form of oddly close female friendships for more “omega” personalities, it often manifests in irrationally promoting feminism and virtue-signaling online.

There is a confounding factor in this dynamic: because of his effeminacy, the white knight is to some degree sexually loathsome to women indeed, the more he tries to prove his worthiness by placing her at the center of his orbit, the less masculine he seems&mdashand so the less sexually interesting. This does, of course, cover a spectrum. Some white knights are naturally “alpha” men who have been feminized, and tend to be able to rely on their physical magnetism and natural charisma to command some interest from women, even as those women find themselves conflicted about their interest. At the other end of the spectrum is the fat neck-beard feminist, who would have trouble being attractive to women regardless of his psychology. But whatever his natural assets, the white knight’s conditioned effeminacy is a handicap to his desire for female affirmation&mdashaffirmation which reaches its fullest expression in female sexual interest. This creates a vicious cycle of frustration and desperation.

Now you know, it’s time to act

How would you feel if your doctor prescribed your child a drug to treat a potentially fatal disease – a drug that has been on the market for years but that is simply less effective than a new drug that was just released – just because it’s what she’d always done?

You wouldn’t stand for it, would you? I know I wouldn't.

So, now you know that "your drug" doesn't really work and there is a "right way" to prioritize and select projects. Research has shown AHP and DEA to be the most suitable methods for project prioritization. Can you, in all conscience, ignore this new-found knowledge?

So, where should you start?

A good starting point is figuring out where you are today. You can sign up for a free session where we will show you how to do this. This will help you clearly identify where improvement is needed and what the benefit of an improved prioritization process would be.

But only you can decide to engage with those resources and then to act.

But you can no longer pretend that you don’t know. And in medical circles, failing to treat patients properly when there's “established best practice” has a name. It’s called malpractice.

Don't be guilty of PMO malpractice.

1. Danesh*, Ryan and Abbasi (2017), School of Engineering and Information Technology, University of New South Wales


ITILv3 defines impact as a measure of the effect of an incident, problem, or change on business processes.

This effect could be positive: a return on investment or customer satisfaction such as a new feature or improvement to a product. Conversely, it could be very negative based on the degree of damage or cost that results. Loss of revenue, manhours, or customers following IT service downtime or poor performance are all negative effects.

Usually, impact would not be expressed in absolute terms, but rather a range or degree that is subject to the interpretation of your company’s context. This range might include:

  • Number of customers/users affected
  • Amount of lost revenue or incurred costs
  • Number of IT systems/services/elements involved

A variety of terms can help identify the impact, or effect, of an incident:

  • High, medium, low
  • Enterprise-wide, extensive/widespread, moderate/multi-user, individual/single user
  • Critical, significant, minor

Remember that words matter: all involved parties must share the same understanding of the scales you use. Clear, common understanding of the impact scale is the first step in effective prioritizing.

Prioritization Tools

While these simple approaches to prioritization suit many situations, there are plenty of special cases where you'll need other prioritization and time management tools if you're going to be truly effective. We look at some of these prioritization tools below:

Paired Comparison Analysis

Paired Comparison Analysis is most useful where decision criteria are vague, subjective or inconsistent. It helps you prioritize options by asking you to compare each item on a list with all other items on the list individually.

By deciding in each case which of the two is most important, you can consolidate results to get a prioritized list.

Decision Matrix Analysis

Decision Matrix Analysis helps you prioritize a list of tasks where you need to take many different factors into consideration.

The Action Priority Matrix

This quick and simple diagramming technique asks you to plot the value of the task against the effort it will consume.

CUNY Academic Works

In dynamic environments, split-second sensorimotor decisions must be prioritized according to potential payoffs to maximize overall rewards. The impact of relative value on deliberative perceptual judgments has been examined extensively, but relatively little is known about value-biasing mechanisms in the common situation where physical evidence is strong but the time to act is severely limited. This research examines the behavioral and electrophysiological indices of how value biases split-second perceptual decisions and the possible mechanisms underlying the process. In prominent decision models, a noisy but statistically stationary representation of sensory evidence is integrated over time to an action-triggering bound, and value-biases are effected by starting the integrator closer to the more valuable bound. Here we show significant departures from this account for humans making rapid sensory-instructed action choices.

We show that on a time-constrained color discrimination task, behavior is best explained by a simple model in which accumulator “drift rate” (effectively, the mean of the evidence being accumulated) is itself biased by value and is non-stationary, increasing over the short decision time frame. Because the value bias initially dominates, the model uniquely predicts a dynamic ‘‘turn-around’’ effect on low-value cues, where the accumulator first launches toward the incorrect action but is then re-routed to the correct one. This was clearly exhibited in electrophysiological signals reflecting motor preparation and evidence accumulation. Furthermore, we constructed an extended model that implements this dynamic effect through plausible sensory neural response modulations and demonstrates the correspondence between decision signal dynamics simulated from a behavioral fit of that model and the empirical decision signals.

To follow up on the finding that drift rate biases dominate over starting point biases, we examined the generality of this effect across different forms of value association. We found that drift rate biases dominate not only when value has a long-term association with the sensory alternatives as in the first experiment, but also when value has a long-term association with motor alternative. To follow up on the proposed sensory neural response modulation model, we further examined whether the model can capture dynamic manipulations of the sensory stimulus onset, and confirmed that it can. This model shows that value and sensory information can exert simultaneous and dynamically countervailing influences on the trajectory of the accumulation-to-bound process, driving rapid, sensory-guided actions.

We thus conclude that 1) value-based prioritization is clearly not only exerted through shifting starting points, but also through strong modulations of the rate of evidence accumulation ("drift rate"), 2) in order to accurately quantify these biases in very fast decisions, it is necessary for models to allow for dynamic changes in drift rate.


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ABC is an acronym for Antecedents, Behavior, Consequences. The ABC Model is used as a tool for the assessment and formulation of problem behaviors. It is useful when clinicians, clients, or carers want to understand the ‘active ingredients’ for a problem behavior (Yomans, 2008). The ABC model helps practitioners and clients to carefully consider what happens in the individual and the environment before a target behavior (the Antecedents) and afterwards (the Consequences): these are also known as the contingencies that shape the behavior. Once these contingencies are understood, interventions can be designed to shape or modify the target behavior.

“Individuals are typically unaware of the contingencies controlling their behaviour” (p.43, Persons)

One powerful feature of the ABC Model is that it focuses on the relationship between an observable behavior and the environment in which it occurs. This moves the focus away from an individual’s particular diagnosis or history, and towards making changes that can address a problem behavior in the here and now. By providing concrete descriptions of what triggers or reinforces a behavior, the ABC model can be used to help clients or their carers understand what is happening, why a behavior occurs, and how the consequences of (or reactions to) a behavior may be serving to maintain a problem (Kuyken, Padesky & Dudley, 2009). Ultimately, the ABC Model can be used to develop interventions that change or modify the antecedents and consequences of a problem behavior in order to treat it (Carr & LeBlanc, 2003 Kuyken, Padesky & Dudley, 2009 Yoman, 2008).

The ABC technique is used across a wide variety of settings. These include clinicians working with verbally capable adult clients, carers working in a residential settings, parents who want to better understand their child’s behavior, and teachers trying to understand problem behavior in the classroom. It can be a useful starting point when there isn’t enough evidence for a treatment intervention, when working with clients who are unresponsive or resistant to manualized treatment, have multiple diagnoses, limited verbal skills, or are unable to reflect on their own behavior (e.g. young people, clients with acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities, or dementia).

When working with clients who are able to engage with talking therapies and reflect on their behavior, the ABC Model is a helpful tool for building the client’s awareness of the triggers for their behavior (the antecedents), and the short and long-term consequences of their behavior. When working more cognitively, some clinicians choose to adapt the model slightly to explore the sequence: Antecedents > Beliefs (Thoughts) > Consequences . Conceptually, this mirrors other techniques such as the CBT Appraisal Model or Cross-Sectional Formulation, which can achieve similar results.

Theoretical background

The ABC Model originated from approaches applying the principles of behaviorism to the assessment and treatment of problem behaviors (Haynes & Hayes O’Brien, 2000 Carr & LeBlanc, 2003). Behavioral approaches focus on how an individual’s behaviour is shaped by their environment as they associate objects, events and experiences (stimuli) with their behavior. Classical and operant conditioning offer a means to understand how behavior is supported and maintained by its antecedents, and how consequences work to reinforce and maintain the behaviour (Yoman, 2008 Haynes & Hayes O’Brien, 2000). The ABC model allows psychologists to determine what makes a particular stimulus an effective trigger (antecedent), and which consequences effectively reinforce and maintain the behavior (Haynes & Hayes O’Brien, 2000).

Classical conditioning explains how things that normally don’t evoke a response (objects or occurences with no emotional significance, e.g. shoes) can become linked to an already existing trigger for a certain response or behavior (such as a family member leaving home). For example, a child may become upset every time their parent puts on shoes. This is because they have come to associate the shoes with the parent leaving. The shoes have become a conditioned stimulus that triggers the same behavior as the parent actually leaving.

“Organisms learn not only what behaviours bring rewarding consequences, but they also learn something about the conditions, or stimuli, that indicate a reward is available” (Persons, 2008)

Operant conditioning explains how voluntary behavior is affected by its consequences. Operant Conditioning provides the theoretical grounding for functional analysis (Carr & LeBlanc, 2003 Iwata et al, 1994). Behavior that is reinforced becomes more likely to be repeated. Reinforcement could be something positive – a reward (e.g. eating chocolate after tidying) or the removal of something aversive or negative (e.g. a feeling of anxiety that goes away once you have tidied). Voluntary behavior that is punished becomes less likely to be repeated. Punishment can be the presence of something unpleasant or bad (e.g. being berated for breaking the rules) or the removal of something positive (e.g. being grounded for throwing food). Thus, the consequences following the behavior make the future occurrence of the behavior more or less likely.

Functional analysis has its origins in work treating problem behavior in people with developmental disabilities. In 1977, Carr hypothesized that self-injury in these clients may be a learned behavior that is maintained through reinforcement – for example, receiving attention from other people following the behavior, or as a means to escape an activity or stimulus that they found aversive. Iwata and colleagues (e.g. 1994 Lerman & Iwata, 1993) used single-subject experiments to test whether self-injury could be modified by changing these hypothesized reinforcers.

Functional analysis then developed into a systematic method for investigating problem behaviors – usually with client groups who had limited verbal abilities and/or cognitive impairments (Carr & LeBlanc, 2003). It takes its name from the focus on understanding the function that the behavior performs (Persons, 2008). There is an emphasis on psychometrically valid measures or at the least, quantitative measures (Haynes & Hayes O’Brien, 2000) that can include the frequency of a behavior, its strength or intensity, and its duration. Wherever possible, behaviors are measured through multiple means such as therapist observation, client observation and report, or observations from a multidisciplinary team. Repeated measurements are encouraged in order to gather more reliable data to understand the contingencies that trigger, reinforce and maintain the behavior of interest. When working with non or low-verbal client groups, ABC is completed by direct observation of the client by a trained professional. For clients able to reliably report on their internal states, covert behaviors (behaviors that are hidden from others, but which are nonetheless sensed by, and observable to, the individual experiencing them – including thoughts, feelings, and physiological changes) can be documented and monitored using the ABC model.

The ABC Model worksheet can be used to identify the triggers for a behavior by monitoring environmental (e.g. location, company, time of day, visual & auditory stimuli) and internal circumstances (e.g. emotions, body states, thoughts, memories) which occur before the behavior. Attention is also then drawn towards the consequences of the behavior: both short-term and long-term, intended and unintended. Clinicians should ask “what is the function of the behavior?”, “What does it achieve?”, and “How is it rewarded?”.


“When we want to know more about a particular problem, we can use a tool called the ABC model to understand more about it. First, we will think about the behavior we want to know more about, and then we will think about some specific times that it has happened.”

1. Identify the target behavior about which you want to understand more. This behavior might be something the client finds problematic or distressing. Where the client is a young child or has reduced mental capacity, it can be a behavior that is problematic for their carers, loved ones, or those around them.

Identifying the target behavior is not always straightforward, and it is common for there to be multiple related problem behaviors. The behaviors targeted should be a high priority for the client rather than the symptoms defined by their diagnosis. The behavior can be effectively selected using a prioritization process that focuses on ‘ultimate outcomes’: what kind of long-term goals or consequences does the client (or their carer) want? When long term outcomes are established, discussions can begin to identify what behaviors will work positively towards those outcomes and what behaviors might be preventing them.

Target behaviors should be described in concrete terms, ideally with a specific definition of the selected behaviors so that they can be measured (e.g. “Child’s yelping behavior”, or “Strong feeling of anxiety that is self-rated to be 8 out of 10 or higher”). As well as identifying the problem behavior that is targeted to be reduced, it is helpful to identify adaptive behaviors that could be increased.

Each ABC form should focus on one target behavior. Helpful categories for behaviors might include:

  • Observable behaviors, e.g. eating, hitting, seeking reassurance, using substances, self-harm.
  • Inhibiting or suppressing an urge or a feeling or a thought, e.g. distracting oneself so as to avoid an urge to self-harm, suppressing an intrusive thought.
  • Thoughts or cognitions that the client is able to report or record, e.g. worry, rumination, self-criticism, self-distraction, compulsive counting or post-morteming, reviewing memories in an attempt to be certain.
  • Feelings that can be reported and rated, e.g. anxiety, sadness, anger.
  • Physiological responses that can be reported and rated, e.g. heart racing, nausea, temperature change, dry mouth.

2. Explore the antecedents to develop an awareness of triggers for a behavior. The ABC model focuses in on the behavior itself and the immediate antecedents. It is useful to think about antecedents in the broadest possible sense: as contingencies in the environment or the person. Antecedents can be internal (feelings, thoughts) or external (environmental changes, social interactions, events). It can help to train clients and to record as many details as possible when the behavior occurs. When designing an intervention, this can aid both the reduction of the problem behavior (by changing or removing antecedents) and the increase of adaptive behaviors (by introducing new antecedents that will make a different, helpful behavior more likely). Helpful prompts are given below.

  • What is the setting?
  • What has happened in their environment?
  • Who are they with?
  • Who else is present?
  • What interactions have taken place?
  • Time of day, month, year, or special dates/days.
  • Sensory stimulation: Consider ambient temperature, light, noise.
  • Events: what has just happened?
  • What is happening for the individual just prior to the behavior?
  • What might they be thinking and feeling?
  • Consider unmet needs, for example, hunger, thirst, cold, lack of connection, anxiety-soothing, boredom.
  • Thoughts: verbal or mental images. You may have already worked on catching ‘hot thoughts’ and making links to feelings and behavior.
  • Feelings or absence of feelings.
  • Memories (voluntary & involuntary).

Explore the consequences to develop an awareness of what might be acting to maintain the behavior, and the impact that the behavior has over the short and long term. Helpful lenses through which to view consequences are:

  • Timescale: short term and long term.
  • Utility: Helpful and unhelpful.
  • Intention: Intended and unintended.

It is often the case that short-term changes immediately after the behavior are intended: a need may be met, or the client may experience a positive feeling. This consequence then acts as a reinforcer for the behavior. Longer term consequences of the behavior are often unintended and unhelpful, because they do nothing to address the root cause of the problem and they can lead to additional problems. Some prompts to consider consequences are given below.

Environment and people:

  • Does the person change their place or location due to the behavior? What is the significance of this if so?
  • What happens to the people present? Does the person attract attention to themselves through the behavior?
  • Ambient temperature, light, noise, sensory stimulation. Are these changed, improved, or avoided?
  • Are particular events or interactions initiated or interrupted by the behavior?
  • Is an unmet need resolved in the short term? (hunger, thirst, cold, lack of connection, anxiety-soothing, boredom and so on).
  • What thoughts and mental images occur immediately after the behavior?
  • What body feelings occur immediately after the behavior?
  • What emotions occur immediately after the behavior?
  • Are any memories triggered by the behavior?

A central question for the long term is “How do the short-term consequences affect the likelihood of similar situations happening in the future?”

Consider the days, weeks and months following the behavior.

Environment and people:

  • Are there any long-term changes or does the environment stay the same? (e.g. triggers that are not addressed or resolved)
  • Does the environment get worse because of the problem behavior?
  • What impact does the behavior have on key relationships?
  • How are friends, family, carers, and colleagues affected?
  • What are the long-term impacts on the individual’s health and wellbeing?
  • When they reflect on the behavior, what do they feel?
  • What thoughts do they have about the behavior?

Future antecedents – maintenance

  • Are there consequences of the behavior that make the same behavior more likely in the future? Consequences can become future antecedents in another round/chain of ABC. For example, binge eating may mean the client is more likely to restrict eating the next day, leading to hunger and another round of binge eating.

Developing interventions. The ABC Model will be most useful when used repeatedly to monitor the behavior to gain a baseline, and alongside more general event logs and diaries to create a detailed picture of antecedents and consequences. The therapist’s goal is to create a formulation for the behavior that gives a description of its function and answers the questions “What does this behavior achieve?” and “How is it being maintained?”.

  • Once a behavior is understood in these terms, interventions can be generated which focus on changing the ABCs. Helpful prompts include:
  • Can antecedents be replaced or removed?
  • Can helpful behavior be triggered instead?
  • What helpful behaviors can be substituted for the problem behavior?
  • Can reinforcing consequences be replaced or removed?
  • Can helpful behavior be reinforced instead?

Experiments can be devised where changes to the ABCs are implemented, and the frequency, intensity and duration of the behavior can then be monitored. If some of these are successful in reducing the problem behavior, intervention can then focus on maintaining these changes.

Model-informed COVID-19 vaccine prioritization strategies by age and serostatus

Limited initial supply of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine raises the question of how to prioritize available doses. Here, we used a mathematical model to compare five age-stratified prioritization strategies. A highly effective transmission-blocking vaccine prioritized to adults ages 20-49 years minimized cumulative incidence, but mortality and years of life lost were minimized in most scenarios when the vaccine was prioritized to adults over 60 years old. Use of individual-level serological tests to redirect doses to seronegative individuals improved the marginal impact of each dose while partially addressing existing inequities in COVID-19 impact. While maximum impact prioritization strategies were broadly consistent across countries, transmission rates, vaccination rollout speeds, and estimates of naturally acquired immunity, this framework can be used to compare impacts of prioritization strategies across contexts.

Competing Interest Statement

ML discloses honoraria/consulting from Merck, Affinivax, Sanofi-Pasteur, and Antigen Discovery research funding (institutional) from Pfizer, and an unpaid scientific advice to Janssen, Astra-Zeneca, and Covaxx (United Biomedical).

Funding Statement

The work was supported in part by the Morris-Singer Fund for the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The work was supported in part by the Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology (IQ Biology) PhD program at the BioFrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Boulder.

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