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ABC123 Prioritized Planning
Source: Michael Olpin, Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

ABC

Task List

B4

Schedule appointment for a haircut

A5

Get snacks for tonight's party

A3

Go to the gym to workout

C3

Check e-mail

B3

Send thank you letter to job interview of last week

C4

Go to the mall to look for some new jeans

C5

Play Nintendo with Eric

A2

Go to the eye doctor's appointment

A4

Meditate for 15 minutes

A1

Study for tomorrow's math test

B2

Study for next week's history test

C2

Make appointment with a counselor to decide on a major at school

B1

Call players on intramural team about next week's game

C1

Write a letter to parents

What you have just done is determine the order you will do the things you want to do based on their relative value to you.

You are determining the sequence of the events of your day. You have begun to gain control of your day.

A word of warning must be included here if you want to make this work effectively. There is a very real human tendency to skip the most valuable and important things (the “A” items on the list) and move to those items that are easier, more fun, or less demanding (the “B” and “C” items on the list). There are a couple natural consequences for doing this.

First, and most notably, many of your important items will turn into very urgent items. If you put off working on the research paper until a couple days before it is due, then you are in the panic mode and the quality of your paper will probably go down dramatically. You will probably not enjoy working on it, as well. This is called “putting out the fires.” It is the urgency mode. Stress levels definitely increase when we operate in this mode.

The other consequence of doing the “B” and “C” items first and putting off the “A” items is inner chaos. When we do the things that are most important to us, we experience inner peace because what we do and what we value are aligned. When we don't do those things that are aligned with what we value, we lose our inner peace. It is a natural consequence.

On most days, you won't finish everything that you put on your list.

In fact, you rarely do. You may have classes, meetings, work obligations, and interruptions that may drastically reduce the amount of free time that you can work on the things on your list.

The real value of this system happens when we do have periods of free time where we can choose between several activities. It is in those parts of the day that we ought to go to the top of our list, our A1 item, and work from there.

This method of planning can be a very effective way to get some control over the events of your life, especially if you aren't currently doing anything to plan your days and feel quite overwhelmed. Wave after wave keeps hitting you and throwing you to the floor – not a good feeling.

By using the ABC123 method, you can gain some of that control back and ride the waves instead of constantly feeling like you are being pummeled by them.

A simple adaptation of the ABC123 method is to start each day by making a list of the six most important things you want to accomplish that day.

With careful thought, this one simple action can help relieve your stress and free your mind to focus on what is most important to you.