New Year’s Resolution pt2: How to use the CARVER MATRIX to Prioritize

Yesterday we sat down and looked at the first step to making a sound New Year’s Resolution. How to choose your Goal and I hope you still have that paper. If not, that’s OK, just follow the link and go back and do that part again, then come back and read this article.

If you have found your paper, take a look at it. For most people, there will be a few different goals that you came up with that all fit into the criteria we established for a good New Year’s Resolution. Things like personal motivations being appropriate, the goal being measurable, Specific, attainable etc.  Some results that you might have come up with could be:

  • Save 10% of my monthly income, every month.
  • Lose 10 kilos, or about 22pounds.
  • Save $10,000.
  • Run a Marathon.
  • Write my Novel.

The possibilities are endless. Really Endless.  Whatever your goals are, check again and make sure there are things you want for you.  If you are sure, go ahead and continue reading.


I have written about the use of the CARVER Matrix before on this blog in regards to How to use the CARVER Matrix for management, well today we are going to talk about how to use this system to choose which Goals on your list are the most important to YOU right NOW.

If you don’t know what The Carver Matrix is then I recommend you go read the original article about it.  It is interesting.  I will skip the introduction for the sake of simplicity and just move on to how we can use this to find which resolution should get Priority in our planning for 2010.


C- Criticality.

How critical is the completion of this goal to your life and well-being in 2010 and beyond?  For example if you are grossly obese and a at huge risk of heart disease, losing 40 pounds might be a little more important than say, cleaning out your closet.

A– Accessibility

Is this goal accessible or is it too well defended or isolated and you can not reach it?  If you are living pay check to pay check then Remodeling your home and adding that new porch out back might not be accessible however, re-wall papering the kitchen and adding some new lighting in the living room is very do-able.


For our purposes here, we will use RETURN in place of RECUPERABILITY.  What are you going to get back from this goal after you commit all your resources and will power to its completion.  If you are in fantastic physical shape yet do not have 20 bucks to put gas in the tank of your beat up Volkswagen, then running another marathon in 2010 might do little for your life however, developing a passive income stream or getting a new job could vastly improve your quality of life.


How well protect is the goal or target and what or how many resources are you going to have to commit in order to over take it?  A project or goal that can be done in a weekend ie. Starting a personal blog, gets a high Vulnerability rating where as, a more long-term project like writing your first novel, gets a low rating.  This also applies to the financial requirements of your goal. If it is expensive the rating is low, affordable and the rating is high.


Once you complete your goal where will you be?  How will its completion affect your entire life and the lives of others?  This is similar to Return yet different. Return is more specific in terms of how much weight you lost or money you saved.  Effect is more broad and includes changing your whole life.  Something that would radically change your lifestyle would get high points, something that might have a smaller change gets lower points.


Do you have a clue how to do what you want to do or not?  Can you even see the target?  You need to lose 50 pounds yet have never exercised a day in your life and you think a Diet is part of the government.  You want to start your own business but you have 10,000 dollars in credit card debt and you think that LLC formation is something you guys did in football…well….these goals would score low points for you.  However, if you have spent the last 5 year’s abroad in Paris France and your goal this year is to take the French language examination, this is very reasonable.

Now we use a simple point system of 1-5. Higher points being good and lower points being bad.

Potential projects C A R V E R TOTAL
Save 10% monthly income 4 4 5 4 2 4 23
Lose 10 kilos 3 3 4 2 4 4 20
Save $10,000 3 2 5 1 4 2 17
Run a Marathon 2 3 3 2 3 4 17
Write my Novel 5 3 3 1 5 2 19

Now we are going to assume that this CARVER Matrix is being used by a very average individual. Not in bad shape but not an Ironman competitor. He/she has a very standard job and lives fairly comfortably but like many people saves very little. the average daily routine is wake up, off to work, maybe workout once a week, meet friends a few days a week, sometimes meet the Boy/girl friend and that’s really about it.
The values I have input into our Matrix are based on these assumptions above.

Above…you can see that for “Average Joe” the first most critical thing he can do for a New Year’s Resolution is to begin saving 10% of his monthly income.  It is immediate, not too terribly difficult to do and will have a big impact not only now but even more so in the long-term. It is fairly easy to find a way to do this and 10% is not such a high number that it is mentally daunting.

The next most impacting thing for Average Joe to under take would be losing 10kilos.  It takes a bit more planning the saving monthly and the way to do this might be a bit more murky for a weekend gym warrior but it CAN be done and losing that kind of weight can really change your life, in many ways.

The third thing to do would be writing the Novel. Although this is a BIG project and not to be taken up lightly, completion of it would be a big deal and could drastically change Average Joes lifestyle and self-image.

Why don’t you try putting your List of goals into the CARVER Matrix and see what the results are.  You might be surprised.

After you do this, keep the papers, do not throw them out or spill a beer on them because the next installment will is going to discuss “Mission Planning: How to Plan your Work and Work your Plan.”