The idea of knowing your ABC’s is based on a model for prioritizing tasks. It goes hand in hand with goal setting and identifying specific, detailed tasks required to successfully reach a particular goal. This works for long or short term goals, personal or professional.
Let’s say we say we have 2 goals we want to accomplish. For both, we’ll need to develop a list of specific tasks to perform to reach these goals. We also have our To-Do List for life in general – our day-to-day stuff, so it can get overwhelming; we don’t know where to start, or sometimes we start on the “little” things to check off small stuff on our lists, only to find ourselves scrambling and working ourselves into a frenzy to get “big” things done before a looming deadline. So, while it’s tempting to clear up some of those “little” tasks, it’s not recommended by time management and personal effectiveness experts.
What is recommended, is focusing on your ABC’s, so let me explain the ABCDE prioritizing model.
- “A” tasks are your “must do’s” those important and/or urgent tasks because if you don’t do them there will be consequences of some sort.
- “B” tasks are your “should do’s” but if you don’t do them, there’s little consequence right now.
- “C” tasks are “nice to do’s” and there’s no consequence for not doing them.
- “D” tasks are things we can delegate to others, or pushback (tell someone where to find info, but not explain it in detail or do it for them). Pushback is particularly helpful when dealing with children of all ages!
- And, finally, “E” tasks are things we need to eliminate altogether. Maybe at one time it was important, or it became a habit, but it really doesn’t add any value now.
The idea is to focus on your “A” tasks first and then move on to “B” tasks and then and only then, move on to “C” tasks, etc. Sounds simple enough, but the problem is that we spend a great deal of time on low value activities like C’s, D’s and E’s instead of doing on our A’s and B’s.
I am notorious (just ask Becky) for being late. She has waited patiently and with a smile for me at lunch several times. And, my husband has waited for me forever. I know when my husband has opened the garage, backed out the car and is waiting for me in the driveway that the sand has run out of the proverbial hourglass! And, I’ll run out to the car only to realize I forget my sunglasses, or I didn’t put lotion on my legs. "Yikes! Gotta go back in, really fast, I promise, honey!" So, it became evident that while I practiced my ABC’s professionally, I needed to apply it to my personal life or I wouldn’t have a husband or any friends that wanted to go anywhere with me.
Let me give you an example. On date night, I would start getting ready an hour in advance which is more than enough time (if I practiced my ABC’s), but, I was using valuable minutes in that hour on low value activities. It was critical for me to identify my “A” tasks and not deviate. My “A” tasks were to be clean, dressed and have my curly hair and basic make-up done and be ready to go. Inevitably, I would do some “B” tasks, like flat iron my hair or do full blown make-up. Then, I’d throw in some “C” tasks too. Check email while I was cooling down after my shower, straighten up the living room, or put a few dishes in the dishwasher as I walked to the laundry room to get the top I planned to wear. Or, I’d decide to reorganize part of my closet because I couldn’t find anything to wear. Sometimes, “D” tasks popped up. I’d get a frantic phone call from my 24 year old daughter who was having trouble boiling water, so I would stop everything and explain it in detail, instead of telling her to Google it.
So, it’s all about knowing the tasks you need to perform, and planning your time (in whatever increments) accordingly. It’s about catching yourself when you start to do a “nice to do” and realize you need to get back on track with your “must do’s”. It’s fun and it’s simple and it’s how I start my days. And, I spread the word to anyone who will listen. When my brother built a lake house and was scrambling to get things done before a housewarming party the following day, I explained the ABC’s to him. Doorknobs on bathroom doors are a “must do” and adding plants to the side flower beds are a “nice to do”. But, it’s all relevant, what you think it most important. For my brother, there were washrags filling the holes for the door knobs at the time of the party.