How to Prioritise Effectively and the Myth of Time Management

Time Management2

Time management doesn’t exist! 

All books and courses about time management are a waste of time (pardon the pun) and money.


Because you can’t actually manage time!

Time flows regardless. It’s a wild beast that can’t be tamed, managed or reasoned with. It ebs, it flows and it goes…. on. Regardless.

What we can manage though is the activities and priorities that fill that time.

And essentially that is what time management books and courses might teach. Although it should be called activity management, or even stuff management. But maybe that’s not as sexy?

So the next question. How best to manage activities and priorities. Well there are as many ways and methods as there are people on the planet to be honest. But here’s one for starters.

It’s called the ABCDE method. I first came across this listening to Brian Tracy, although I adapted the labels to be easier to learn and remember.

When you have your ‘to-do’ list for the day having identified what you’d ideally like to accomplish that day, you do the following.

By each task you write one of the letters ABCDE. And this is what they stand for.

A – ACTION. This is any task that must get done. If it doesn’t there are serious consequences. Loss of a big client, big delay or costly consequence, maybe even your job. It requires attention. Right away. Maybe that’s pulling together that presentation for the CEO, or calling back that $100m client your firm has and depends on.

B – BENIGN. This means that it would be great to do it, but there are no serious consequences if it’s not completed. It will move you forward or is part of your job, but you won’t lose your job, client, project etc by not doing it. It’s benign (i.e. not harmful). This might be attending your weekly team meeting or some other strategy session. Something like that.

C – CONSIDER. This would be good to do, but it’s really not important. You could consider doing it, but it’s consequences are minimal. Maybe that’s going to lunch with colleagues, or something of that nature. It’s something to do, but it doesn’t really matter.

D- DELEGATE. What can you get someone else to do? Maybe you need to transcribe those videos for YouTube? (I know I do). And it’s maybe what you think to be a ‘B’ task even. But… for a few dollars on I can delegate that out to someone else to do (and I have in the past and it’s on my list to do for more videos!).

E – ELIMINATE. Ask whether this really needs to get done at all? Maybe it’s reading that article you saved for later, or watching that YouTube video you said you would watch later. We often put things on our lists just to feel and look like we’ve got stuff to do. Because there are these lose ends that float around in our head and we think, if we can do this and this and that and this, then all is well in the world. Does it even matter? Will anyone notice? Will you even notice or remember a year from now, or even a day from now that it was done? Did it move you closer to your goals? If not, chances are it’s an ‘E’ task. Scrub it off the list today!

And the rule is that you never do a ‘B’ task with an ‘A’ task still on there. You do everything humanly possibly to get that ‘A’ task done. Maybe (and this happened to me a lot when I worked in the corporate environment) you have to get a report completed and signed off. You focus on completing the report but that’s only half the job. Getting it signed off is the next part. Rather than send it and see, I would do more. That might be setting up sign off meetings, sending calendar reminders with the email, phoning the person, going round to their desk to get it signed off. Whatever it takes. When all that is exhausted. For example, the person is away and you’ve emailed, send the reminders, put a post-it on their computer screen, left a voice message and stalked them on Facebook (okay, that last one I never did do!), then you can move onto your ‘B’ task.

And so on. ‘B’ before ‘C’ and D and E – well, you know what to do.

If there are more than one ‘A’ or ‘B’ tasks? A1, A2, A3 etc. And the same principles apply. A1 before A2…

What are your methods? This is just one, but it can be a useful one to have in the toolbox of productivity and life/work skills.

Here’s a video I posted about it from a while back (I have a bit of a beard now, so seeing me clean shaven is funny!)

Enjoy and remember to share and comment.


What do you think?