The ABCDE Method for Prioritising Tasks

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Estimated reading time: 3 min

Background

In this article, we look at the ABCDE method for prioritising tasks. The ABCDE method was developed by Brian Tracy and is found in his best selling time management book Eat That Frog.

The ABCDE method helps us to understand what tasks we should be working on, which tasks we should leave and which tasks we should try and pass over to someone else through delegation.

The ABCDE Method for Prioritising Tasks

To help us to understand what tasks we should be working on, we can use the ABCDE method for prioritising our tasks. The ABCDE method required us to have a to-do list where we have already identified the tasks that we need to get done. Once we have that we can use the ABCDE method to prioritise the tasks we have to complete.

The idea of the ABCDE method is that we give each task a letter that signifies what we are going to do with that task or how we are going to treat it. We label each task with A-B-C-D-E. The letters in the ABCDE method signify:

  • A - Very important
  • B - Important
  • C - Nice to do
  • D - Delegate
  • E - Eliminate

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Applying the ABCDE Method for Prioritising Tasks

Here is how to apply the ABCDE method to effectively prioritise your tasks.

  1. You need a to-do list that includes all of the tasks that you need to work on
  2. Label each a letter - A-B-C-D-E following the criteria below
  3. Work on those tasks that are labelled with A, then followed by tasks that are labelled with B
  4. Delegate the tasks that you have labelled with D
  5. Negotiate with the person who us expecting, or with your manager about those that are labelled with E
  6. When you have spare time available and all of your A tasks and B tasks are completed, work on the tasks labelled with C

A Tasks

The first label in the ABCDE method for prioritising is the letter A.

Label tasks with A that are very important. These are tasks that carry serious consequences if not completed or add serious value if they are. You should consider the consequences and value to your business or organisation, not to you personally.

Where you have tasks labelled with A, you should carry out these tasks before any of your other tasks.

B Tasks

The second label in the ABCDE method for prioritising is the letter B.

Label tasks with B that are important. These are tasks that are not as important as those labelled as A and are tasks that carry minor consequences or value add.

Once you have completed all of your tasks labelled as A, you should then complete your tasks labelled as B

C Tasks

The third label in the ABCDE method for prioritising is the letter C.

Label tasks with C that are nice to do. These are tasks that do need to be done, but they don't carry any consequence or value. Tasks labelled with C should be completed once all of your A labelled tasks and B labelled tasks have been completed.

D Tasks

The fourth label in the ABCDE method for prioritising is the letter D.

Label tasks with D that you can delegate to someone else. Consider if anyone else has the skills and willingness to carry out tasks for you and then assign these tasks to those individuals.

For more details on delegating and how to delegate effectively, take a look at our How to Delegate Effectively article.

E Tasks

The final label in the ABCDE method for prioritising is the letter E.

Label tasks with E that you can eliminate. By eliminate, you should be looking at any tasks that don't add any value or carry no consequences. These are often tasks that you do but you don't know why you do them. You can eliminate tasks by no longer doing them or by reducing the frequency of when you do them. For example, can you do the task once a month rather than once a week with the same outcome?

What to Do Alongside the ABCDE Method for Prioritising

Prioritising tasks is only once part of effective time management. You should also plan and schedule your tasks too.

For more on planning, see our How to Plan Your Time Effectively article and for scheduling, see our How to Schedule Your Time Effectively article.

Further Learning

You can learn more about the ABCDE Method for Prioritising by attending a time management training course. Take a look at time management training from our learning development partner Revolution Learning and Development.

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