Friday, September 18, 2009

ABC 123

Several years ago, I took a course on time management and was taught the Franklin Covey ABC 123 tool. Essentially you must make a list each day of everything you have to do, then prioritize it as A (must), B (secondary), C (can wait... but still a to-do). Then each A, each B, and each C is given a sequence of 1, 2, 3, etc.

It's a supremely simple idea. It should work. However, the course said in order to truly make this process work you must:

  1. Only answer your phone or voice mails at certain times of the day.
  2. Stay focused on each task and complete it, delegate it, or process it as far as you can before moving to the next item.
  3. Close your door and don't allow interruptions.
  4. Never allow someone else's A to displace yours. this, I ask you, a real-world situation? My phone is constantly ringing, my voice mail light constantly flashing and my email constantly popping. Usually it is someone higher up the food chain than me that is trying to reach me. Do you think it is really feasible to "disappear" for long periods of time?

Stay focused on one task? When was the last time your workplace, or more importantly your wandering mind allowed for this kind of single-minded thinking?

Close your door? What f-ing door? Do you not know we are all in cubicles at best and with the latest space-saving movement, many of our workplaces are reduced to desks with half-walls around them. If it weren't for ear-buds none of us would be able to focus at all!

And just so you know, everyone else's A displaces mine on a daily basis. Refer to my food chain comment above.

I particularly loved it when the instructor said, "And don't be seduced by those quick to do items that may be lower priority but are easy to complete."

Lady, I wanted to scream, if it weren't for those things I'd never be able to put a damn check mark on my freakin' list.

So for those of you who can follow ABC, 123, I envy you...and I also believe that you also have a bridge to sell me in Brooklyn.


so NOT cool said...

I wonder if you couldn't alter this a bit, reverse it perhaps, to suit your situation (and that of many others). Like, instead of delegating a certain time for listening to and replying to emails/phonecalls, how about you designate a time (or several) when you refuse to be interrupted (with certain exceptions)?

While my situation is different than yours, I have two different list options that I use. Sometimes, I make a list of MUST DOS, just so that I don't overlook something important. I often keep a loose list of things that I need to accomplish soonish.

My other scenerio is when I have a big task and want to break it down into little tasks that I can cross off, and therefore can see progress.

I know that this doesn't address all of the aspects of ABC 123, but it is what is presently (sort of) working for me.

JeannetteLS said...

I have no bridge, but perhaps some swamp land in Florida? Someone's A is ALWAYS messing with my Space! Sometimes people who teach management courses have been out of the loop a tad too long. I like working at home, but even HERE that won't work! Thank you for your support on my blog. I will be visiting yours, that's for sure. I needed to laugh!

Kate Hanley said...

I find those time management things unrealistically funny but then as a stage manager I'm at the beck and call of everyone else.

Eric Hodges said...

I know this is years late, but your blog came up when I was looking for info on ABC123 :)

I took a similar class and had the same thoughts. However, when I sat down with my boss and explained what I needed to do in order to be more productive they where very receptive. In fact they acknowledged immediately that they where one of my "time wasters". They also understood and worked with me on managing my time and projects to their needs. I generally went over my A's for the day and when they asked for something else I told them which of the A priority items it was going to bump.

In the long run this worked out quite well and is a system I still follow years later. I don't stick to it 100% or every day, but when things start getting overwhelming or I feel my time being wasted I revert back to it to calm things down and get things organized and in gear.

Honestly I had the exact same thoughts while in class but these concepts really do work if you apply them and modify them to your needs/situation.