Deciding the order in which we tackle the various tasks before us is something we all do consciously (or unconsciously) every day. There are many methods for prioritizing work. In most methods, the main consideration has to do with comparing the potential consequences of doing or not doing each item on the list. One of the simplest time management systems is the “A, B, C, D” method.
“A” Activities are “must do” activities that are important and often urgent. If they do not get done, negative–sometimes severe–consequences can happen. Such activities include turning reports in to your boss, delivering scheduled presentations, attending and preparing for important meetings. (For example, if you don’t turn in your health benefits information by the deadline you may not get any health insurance with your company.)
“B” Activities are important activities that ultimately will affect the degree to which you are successful in your job, but you may not need to do any or all of them today. They could become tomorrow’s A activities or you may need additional information to complete them.
“C” Activities are things that—if not done—probably won’t have short-term consequences that impact job success. However, they may create problems if they are never attended to. (These could include reading journals, organizing your computer files, networking with peers.)
“D” Activities are your DON’T do’s. These may be tasks you need to delegate or skip altogether. (Example: Something is on your desk that someone else wants done, but you are not the right person to do it. Or it could be reorganizing your paper files when they are already sufficiently organized.)
Note: Procrastination can sometimes take the form of spending excessive time on D activities such as sorting through mail/email, reading the newspaper, or restocking supplies. These activities often seem productive but they can usually be saved for another time.
For each day, you should list 5-8 activities you plan to do. Estimate the time each should take and give yourself at least a 10% cushion. Then label each activity A, B, C or D and tackle them in that order.
Excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the CRM Learning program Time Challenged.
Need help in this area? Time Challenged is a favorite with trainees in all types of organizations. The humorous video provides the perfect introduction to the highly effective workshop that is included.