By now you’ve probably heard that one of the best ways to become more productive is by prioritizing the items on your to do list. It’s no longer about finding clever hacks so that you can cross off every item on your list. The new productivity paradigm states that you need to decide what’s most important, and make sure that you tackle those tasks first. Lower priority tasks can be crossed off your list.
But how do you prioritize your to do list? How do you decide which tasks should get done first, and which ones you can draw a line across without feeling any guilt? By using the CARVER Method.
The CARVER Method is a matrix developed by the United States military to help them with target selection. I learned about this tool in the book “Unleash the Warrior Within”
by Richard “Mack” Machowicz. The military uses this tool to calculate which is the most attractive target for an attack. The main objective of the matrix is to make sure that resources are used as efficiently as possible.
CARVER is an acronym that stands for the following:
- C- Criticality
- A- Accessibility
- R- Recuperability
- V – Vulnerability
- E – Effect
- R – Recognizability
Each of these elements is described below. In addition, we’ll use the goal or objective of increasing blog subscribers as an example so that you can see the matrix in action. Please note that the method has been modified so that it’s applicable to a non-military setting.The CARVER Method – Criticality
The first element of the CARVER Method–criticality–addresses the following question: How critical or significant is this target?
Once you’ve set the goal of increasing your blog subscribers, you need to generate a list of different ways in which you can accomplish this goal (your potential to do list items). For example, you could come up with the following eight ways to increase blog subscribers:
- Write 5 guest posts for large blogs.
- Create a Facebook Fan Page.
- Get a professional design for your blog.
- Create a free eBook to offer subscribers as a freebie for subscribing.
- Hold a contest or giveaway.
- Go through old posts and optimize them so that they’re found by the search engines, thus bringing you more traffic.
- Find a great plugin that makes it easy for others to share your content on social media sites.
- Find new Twitter followers so that they tweet your blog posts.
Each of the eight methods described above has the potential to help you achieve your goal of increasing your blog subscribers, but some are more critical–or necessary to help you achieve your goal–than the others.
As an illustration, spending lots of time trying to get new Twitter followers is low on the criticality scale since you don’t need a lot of Twitter followers in order to increase your blog subscribers. On a scale from 1 to 5, this item would probably get a 1. In fact, you can have a large blog with lots of subscribers without even having a Twitter account.
However, if your blog has a poor design, and you have a high bounce rate, getting a professional design would probably be very critical in helping you to get new blog subscribers. After all, a person forms an impression about your site in about 3 seconds. If your design gives them a bad first impression, they probably won’t even give your content a chance. On a scale from 1 to 5, this item would probably get a 5.
You then go down the list of all the potential to do list items and score them on criticality on a scale from 1 to 5. Then you move on to the next CARVER element and do the same thing.The CARVER Method – Accessibility
The second element of the CARVER Method–accessibility–answers these questions:
- Do you have what you need–or can you easily get what you need–in order to knock down this target?
- Do you have the skills that are necessary in order to tackle this item?
Maybe you don’t know how to create a Facebook Fan Page, but creating a fan page is free, and there’s a lot of information on the Internet that can teach you how to create one. Therefore, this would probably get a 3 on a scale from 1 to 5 for accessibility.
On the other hand, getting a professional blog design can be expensive, and if you don’t have the money to pay for it right now, this would probably get a 1 on the accessibility element. It’s not accessible to you at the moment since you can’t afford it.The CARVER Method – Recuperability
The third element of the CARVER Method–recuperability–is about the return that you’re going to get on your investment, and how fast you’re going to see results. For example, if you send guest posts to five different large blogs, you’ll probably have to wait from 6 to 8 weeks before they publish them, because of the large numbers of guest posts which large blogs receive. This task would probably get a 2 or a 3 in recuperability.
Writing an eBook which you can give away as a gift to entice people to subscribe to your blog is something you could do in about three weeks. Therefore, writing an eBook to give away to new subscribers would probably get a 4 on the recuperability scale.The CARVER Method – Vulnerability
The fourth element of the CARVER Method–vulnerability–asks the following question: How easy is it to knock down this target?
Suppose that you want to optimize one of your old blog posts so that it ranks well for a particular keyword. If you’ve chosen a very popular keyword, then it’s probably going to be very difficult for you to appear on the first page of Google for that keyword. That is, that target is not vulnerable; it would probably get a 1 on the vulnerability scale.
If you’ve noticed that there’s a gap in your niche which you can easily fill by writing a short eBook to give away to new subscribers, then giving away a free eBook would get a 5 on the vulnerability scale. There’s a need which you can easily fill, so that target is easy for you to knock down; it’s vulnerable.The CARVER Method – Effect
The fifth element of the CARVER Method–effect–asks this question: How much will this item move you closer toward achieving your stated goal?
Submitting guest posts to large blogs is very likely to get you new subscribers, so it would have a strong positive effect on your goal of getting new subscribers. This item would get a 5 for effect. Finding a great plugin so that others can easily share your blog posts on social media sites probably won’t help you get lots of new subscribers, so this item would get a 1 for effect.The CARVER Method – Recognizability
The last element of the CARVER Method is recognizability. This element asks these questions:
- Is this project easy to understand?
- Are the steps to completion clear?
Even if you create a Facebook Fan Page, do you understand the steps that you need to take in order to use that fan page as a way to attract new subscribers? If not, then this element would get a 1 for recognizability.
If you’ve submitted guest posts to large blogs in the past, then you know exactly which are the steps that you need to take in order to get a guest post accepted. At the same time, once your post is published, this task is completed. Therefore, this item gets a 5 for recognizability.The Matrix
The CARVER Matrix looks like this:
As you can see, the tasks which you’re trying to prioritize go on the column to the left (under the heading “target”).
Then, you insert the score on a scale from 1 to 5 that you assigned for each of the CARVER elements regarding that task. The next step is to add up all the numbers horizontally and that gives you a total. The task with the highest total is the one that you should tackle first. The one with the second highest score is the one that you should tackle second, and so on. You can cross out the items that receive the lowest scores.Conclusion
If you would like see another example of the CARVER Method applied to a non-military setting, the blog Gaijinass has an interesting example on how to apply the CARVER Method in a management setting.
Stop trying to guess which item on your to do list you should get to first. Prioritize your to do list based on which items are most likely to help you achieve your intended goal with the least amount of resources.