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The ICE system - prioritizing your projects

Lawyers are constantly juggling multiple tasks and projects. To-do lists can be so long and overwhelming that one does not even know where to start. This can lead to avoiding doing any task of importance until we absolutely have to do it. It can also result in shutting down and feeling burned out even before we start any tasks. A helpful tool for managing to-dos is the ICE system, a simple and effective method of prioritizing tasks and projects.

The ICE system provides a framework for measuring the priority of tasks. The relevant metrics in this system are: impact, confidence and ease. Each is ranked on a scale of one to five (it can be tempting to expand this scale, but the idea is to keep it simple). A total score is then tallied and the tasks are then ranked accordingly. 

The first step is to identify projects or tasks that you have in a given period. This can range from quarterly projects to daily tasks. The next step is to assign scores to each factor.        

Impact

Impact measures how much the task or project will positively affect your clients or your practice. Tasks with the most impact should receive a higher score. For example, initiating settlement discussions on a file could have a significant impact on your client. Or, if you have been toying with the idea of online payments based on client demand, this could have a positive impact as it will make you more attractive to potential clients and make it easier for you to get paid. Furthermore, perhaps you have been considering expanding the practice areas your firm offers by hiring an associate. If you have been receiving a lot of calls in a particular practice area, then expanding into that area could have an impact on your practice.  

On a side note, tasks that you identify as low impact should be delegated to staff or an outside source.  

Confidence 

Confidence refers to how confident you are that there will be an impact. If your clients have been asking for an online payment system, you can be more confident that implementing such a feature will have an impact. Likewise, if there is a market demand for a particular practice area, you can have more confidence that there will be a positive impact on your firm. On the other hand, if nobody has asked to pay you by Bitcoin, then you might not be so confident in the impact that adding that option will have.

Sometimes, this metric is classified as "cost" and measures the financial resources required to do the task or project. Tasks that have a lower cost or fit within your budget can be given a higher score and vice versa.

Ease

Ease measures how difficult the task is or how much time it is going to take. Give easier tasks a higher score and harder tasks a lower one. The completion of easier tasks motivates us to tackle more difficult tasks down the road.   

Rank accordingly

Once you have scores for each factor, add them up for a total score. These final scores will give you a logical sequence for completing what you have to do. 

There are many variations to the ICE system, so it is easily adaptable to any practice. The system is not perfect though as it is vulnerable to over-subjectivity. To maximize its effectiveness, use it as a quick tool to give you a sense of direction. While other measures can be added, it is best to keep it simple as figuring out ICE scores should not be a long, drawn-out task in and of itself.