A simple, yet powerful method of managing the events of our lives
involves moving beyond the traditional to-do list.
It is called the ABC123 Prioritized Planning method introduced
by Alan Lakein. The focus of this method is to move from crisis
management and putting out fires, toward doing, on a daily basis,
those things that are most important to us.
The first part of this process is deciding to dedicate
15 minutes each day to the process of thoughtful planning.
This could happen either at the beginning of the day or the evening
prior to the next day. During the 15 minute daily planning, follow
this procedure that has three phases:
Phase I – Make a List
First make a list of everything you want to accomplish today.
Don't give any value to anything on the list at this point.
Simply unload onto a piece of paper or planner the things that
you want and need to do today.
At this point, it looks much like a traditional to-do list.
This may be a long list. That is okay.
Phase II – Give a value to each item on the list
Put an “A” next to each item on your list that
must be done today. These are the vital things that have the
highest amount of importance to you.
Important is not the same as urgent and it is necessary to
clarify the difference.
The urgent item shouts for immediate action. Many
times these urgent things are not necessarily important,
but they have the appearance of needing to be handled right
now. Answering a telephone or checking an e-mail may appear
urgent, but oftentimes lacks relative importance.
We have a tendency to do the urgent things at the expense of
the highly important things.
|The important or vital task rarely must be done
today or even this week. The urgent task calls for
instant action. The momentary appeal of these tasks
seems irresistible and they devour our energy. But
in the light of times perspective, their deceptive
prominence fades. With a sense of loss, we recall
the vital task we have pushed aside; we realize we
have become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.
Charles Hummel, President of Barrington University
For example, most people would agree that spending time developing
a relationship is very important. Spending quality time with
a friend or family member is critical and vital to the development
of the relationship. Yet, the amount of time that parents spend
talking to each other or their children is very small in relation
to the time they spend doing more seemingly urgent, but far
less important, items of the day such as watching television
or surfing on the internet.
Examples of “A” priority
items would include activities like studying for a test that
will take place in two or three days; shopping for food, when
there is none on the shelf or in the refrigerator; putting some
gasoline in the car if your running on empty; going to the gym
to workout; having lunch with your best friend; taking your
daughter to a movie; spending some quiet time meditating; deciding
on a topic and begin researching for a paper that is due in
3 weeks. These are all important items, though they may not
be hollering at you to be done “right now.” These
important, but not necessarily urgent items must get on your
list as “A” items.
Next, place a “B”
by each item that should be done today. These are items with
some importance to you. An example of a “B” item
might be deciding on a topic for a paper that is due in 6 weeks;
filling your car with gas when it still has a quarter of a tank
left; changing the dirty water in the fish tank.
The items on your list that will get a
“C” are those tasks that have very
little importance to you. These items could be done, but won't
suffer at all if they are not. Examples of “C” items
might be washing your car; going to a store to buy a shirt;
cleaning the garage.
The value you give items will
change as the events in your life change. What
was once a “C” item, such as cleaning the garage,
might soon become a “B” item if you can no longer
get your car into the garage and you have nowhere else to park
your car. The level of importance of working on a research paper
changes as the due date for the paper approaches. The key point
is that you are the one who is evaluating the relative importance
of each of the items on your list based on how you currently
Phase III – Prioritize again using 123
In this phase of the planning process, give a numerical value
to each item on the list based on its relative importance to
First, move through the “A” items and compare each
one. Ask yourself which of these very important items is the
most important of all. That item gets a “1” next
to the “A” so it becomes “A1” on your
list. Proceed through each of the A's until you have given a
ranking to each. Then proceed to the B's and then the C's. (See
the example of a prioritized daily planning list below.)
of Prioritized Daily Planning >