What is the Best System to Prioritize Your To Do List?

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, is a leading expert on time management and organization. He recently republished a blog articlethat addresses the A, B, C system of prioritizing a To Do List.

Allen is big on lists. He advises us to use lists of things to do and use them to keep ourselves organized and on task. He is not a fan, however, of the ABC prioritization system that is recommended by so many.

The ABC system is a method for prioritizing your To Do list based on the importance or urgency of the tasks. The highest priority items are labeled A, and then in decreasing importance B and C. Most often we are told that what must be done today is labeled A, what could be done today and is important enough to come after the A items are B, and the least important are C. This system has been around for decades. It was an essential part of the Day-Timer organization system used so widely in the 1970s and 1980s and still used by many today.

Allen believes this system is not helpful to most of us where other factors have a greater impact on what we do and when we do it. For example a project may be of high importance but requires a block of time to do. In that case you cannot do it first, you must schedule it into your day when there is time to do it. Other items may have a B lever of importance but because they take a little time they can be done first.

He also advises to group tasks based on similarity. He suggests you answer all emails at one time; answer phone calls during another time.

Allen also notes that what may have seemed most important at 8:00 AM comes in second or third to the urgent matters that arise all day long.

For all these reasons Allen suggests that you forego the ABC system and look over your list throughout the day and learn to rapidly sort it and do what is most important and fits best in the time allowed.

I am not so sure the two systems are actually mutually exclusive. I still use the ABC system to give some order to my list and to minimize some of the prioritization work that might come later in the day. It saves time. I also re-prioritize throughout the day as events and circumstances dictate. I agree with him that intervening events can derail the best of plan. I also agree that grouping some tasks can make a lot of sense and also be more efficient. As long as you keep the advantages of both approaches in mind throughout the day you can benefit from using both.

Take a look at Allen’s articleand then tell us what you do and what you think works best. 

Wishing you success and prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy
Helping People Learn to Build Wealth

Wishing you Success and Prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.