Coined by famed self-help author Brian Tracy - the ABCDE productivity method focuses on breaking down a task list on a scale of the most important to the least and, in some cases, on items that can be removed altogether.
Brian Tracy came up with this system to tackle the urge of people to latch on to comfort tasks instead of meaningful ones with an objective impact. Most of us can be tempted into burying ourselves for 15 minutes into our social media feed or scrolling through our email inbox rather than pursuing a complex task that can actually move the needle for our career or business.
We keep ourselves busy rather than productive, which is not ideal. Hence, the ABCDE method was born and has become one of the most popular productivity systems out there.
Why does it work?
- Helps prioritize tasks before execution.
- Removes time wastage due to context switching.
- Simple enough to get started and maintain.
How does it work?
- Start by creating a list of all the tasks on your plate.
- Assign "A" to the most important tasks. If you fail to finish these tasks, the consequences could be severe.
- Assign "B" to the less important tasks. If you fail to complete these tasks, there are consequences, but they are not very serious.
- Assing "C" to tasks that add value or are "nice to do." There are no consequences to not doing this task, but there is something to gain from it when finished.
- Assign "D" to tasks that you can delegate. These are tasks where there is no additional value in working on them so that they can be delegated.
- Finally, assign "E" to tasks that can be eliminated or their frequency be significantly reduced without losing a lot of value.
- Once classified, start executing based on the prioritized list.
- Move on to the "B" list only after you are done with the "A" list, so on and so forth.
ABCDE method in action
Yasir was a senior sales professional at a startup, and he constantly found himself working on tasks that made him feel busy, but they did very little to help him get better sales numbers.
He was recommended the ABCDE system by a friend who swore by it. Curious, Yasir decided to pursue it, and he started by creating a massive list of tasks.
He then categorized them based on importance, and pretty soon, he found out that less than 20% of the tasks on his list would move the needle for his sales career. He quickly marked them ABCDE in the order of priority and got started with the "A" list.
It took Yasir significant time to finish the "A" list, but he knew that not doing these tasks would seriously affect his career and sales numbers. So he bit the bullet and kept at it, only to finish it quicker than expected.
Only after the "A" list was completed did Yasir move on the "B" list and so on. He was able to schedule time slots for the "B" list tasks since the consequences of not finishing them were not very high, and most were not time-sensitive.
When he finished the "B" list and got to the "C" list, he was able to see the extra value that some of them could bring him, so he immediately started blocking time for some of them and decided to pursue the rest as and when he can find the time.
He also delegated the "D" list tasks to his teammates, some of whom were better suited to work on them. Finally, he reviewed the "E" list and eliminated them when he failed to see a value addition.
The ABCDE method changed the way Yasir looked at his to-do list, and now he can focus on things that will help rather than just feel busy and drained all the time without moving the needle.