ABCDE Method: Your Time is Valuable, Start Prioritizing Tasks Correctly

Who wouldn’t want to try out a productivity method that made things as easy as A-B-C? Why not take that a step further and use the ABCDE method? This tried and tested method is what I rely on to get results out of each and every day, and it has served me well.


What is the ABCDE Method?

The ABCDE method takes the idea that everything on your list of things to do has some value, but certain tasks are clearly more important than others. The items that are most important ought to be bumped to the front of the line so you don’t have to worry about if they will get done or not. You will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the most important things to you will be handled by using this method. You simply need to organize your day in such a way that the most important tasks are those that are done first (the “A” tasks).

The ABCDE creates a flow of tasks that looks something like this:

  • A tasks – The most urgent and essential tasks (should be a priority and done first)
  • B tasks – Tasks that are also important, but not quite as urgent or vital (should be scheduled or done right after all A tasks)
  • C tasks – Tasks that are neither urgent nor incredible vital, but may still be handled personally (should be scheduled)
  • D tasks – The tasks that one needs to delegate to other people to get done
  • E tasks – Tasks that need to be eliminated entirely because they don’t provide enough value

People like the ABCDE method because they can easily see how it is light years ahead of the traditional “to-do” list that you might be accustomed to using at this time. The reason why it is so advanced compared to that “to-do” list is that the “to-do” list is prone to giving you a false sense of accomplishment.

When someone puts everything that they have to do down on their “to-do” list, they may get a false sense of momentum if they are able to accomplish 70-80% of the items listed there. They think that they have had a productive day because they got such a large percentage of their work done.

3 item to do list


What they are failing to see in this case is the fact that they might have knocked off the least valuable and least time-consuming items off of their list. If that is the truth, then they really haven’t done much to contribute to their bottom line.

The ABCDE method flips this on its head. Users of this method will prioritize their most important tasks by literally putting them at the top of the list.

After that, they can try to handle some other tasks that might not be as important to them. Users don’t have to focus on the total number of tasks completed. Often, they accomplish more by focusing on the top priority tasks that they have completed. It makes a big difference because people who are productive with their day can tell that the productivity came from knocking out those most important tasks first.

The human mind is wired to take the path of least resistance, and that means that we often gravitate towards working on tasks that are not as challenging for us. This might seem like a good idea at first, but the reality is that we ultimately don’t get as much done, and we end up further behind than we were at the start. That is not ideal, and it is something to look out for. Take the ABCDE method into account, and your odds of procrastinating on the most important tasks of the day can drop quickly.


Benefits of Prioritizing Using ABCDE Method

Prioritizing the most important tasks of the day is obviously what you ought to do. There is no value in getting a lot done if the things that you are getting done are not contributing much to what you want to accomplish in life.

abcde letters

Instead of patting yourself on the back for having accomplished a great number of tasks, why not reward yourself for having accomplished the most important tasks? This is where many people are in their journey towards using the ABCDE method as effectively as possible.

They are starting to realize that something like the ABCDE method can help them clear their minds from the endless swirl of worry about getting their most important tasks done when they need them done.

Getting your tasks in the proper order means thinking about which ones matter the most, which you can leave to another day. You should be able to stack your various tasks in order on the ABCDE chart with ease once you have begun to use this method for some period of time.

“The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” -Stephen Covey

How to Get Started Using ABCDE Prioritizing Method

In order to get started with the ABCDE prioritizing method, think about what you want to get accomplished in your day. You need to know what has the top priority to you, and what you are willing to put off until another day. If you can sort out those differences, then you will have no problem drawing up a list of your tasks to do by order of importance on the ABCDE chart.

You should get a pen and paper (or your smartphone if you wish) and write out everything that you need to accomplish in your day. From there, you should start to sort out the tasks based on the real priority that you can assign to each one. This will allow you to assign them to their true spots when the time comes. It is much less challenging to get through all of this when you can see all of your tasks in one place. Writing them out allows the visual component that you need to start organizing them how you wish to.


Example of ABCDE Prioritizing Method in Action

Great business leaders will often use the ABCDE method to help them sort out what tasks they need to take on themselves, and which tasks they can delegate away to someone else. In some cases, they may even discover that they can eliminate certain tasks entirely if they do not provide enough value to the company’s bottom line.

A sign of true leadership is knowing when to assign work to someone else who is better suited for a specific task. The ABCDE method allows that to be a possibility.

blue paper ships following the leader red paper ship

Think about how someone running their own business might want to put certain immediate tasks into their “A” category such as building business relationships, making sure they have proper contracts with suppliers, and conducting the routine business of making sure their company continues to grow day to day. They may also work on some “B” level tasks such as actually delivering supplies to customers (this may be delegated to others as the business grows) that they know they also need to get done to ensure everything goes as planned.

After you get past “C” level tasks, you enter “D” level tasks which are those tasks that you need to delegate in order to get them off of your hands and into the workflow of someone who can better handle them. That is important because you don’t need to be involved in every single decision that passes by your desk. If there is someone else who can do it better, allow them to do so!

Finally, the tasks that are “E” level shouldn’t be bothered with at all. This is to say that they should be eliminated from the workflow so that you aren’t wasting your time spending energy on tasks that you know aren’t going to serve your bottom line at all.


2 Critical Things to Keep in Mind While Using the ABCDE Method


1. This is not a time matrix

Although this method is similar to a time management matrix, the two are not exactly the same. The critical element that ABCDE has that the time matrix does not is the ability to eliminate tasks that you have come to realize are not nearly as important to your bottom line as you might have previously thought. Some people are afraid to get rid of tasks because they think it will make them look not busy enough, but you should not have that fear. Allow yourself to focus your true efforts on the things that really matter.


2. You may need to retrain your mind to work on challenging tasks

As previously mentioned, the mind is naturally set to take care of the easier tasks first and reward itself for what feels like progress. You may need to work on this for a while to change your mindset about how you take care of your tasks. It is much more to your advantage to work on the most challenging tasks first before you think about other things that you need to do.


It can’t hurt to try out a new productivity method, and it may lead to great success stories as it has for me. Knowing what I need to get done in the correct order has made the entire process of churning through my work so much more productive. Instead of rewarding myself for having accomplished a certain percentage of a to-do list, I reward myself when I know that I have accomplished the most pressing and most important tasks on that list right from the start.

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