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2 Ways to Manage Your Tasks and Double Your Productivity

The starting point of higher productivity is clear goals. Learning how to manage your tasks will help you determine if you're on track for your goals. For a goal to be effective in guiding behavior, it must be specific and measurable. It must be believable and achievable. It must be written out and time bounded. The greater clarity you have with regard to your goals, the more you will get done and the faster you will accomplish what you do.

The second key to high productivity is clear, written plans of action. Every minute you spend in planning will save you as many as ten minutes in execution. Make a list of every single step of the task, or of your day, before you begin. Always work from a list. Think on paper. Working from a list keeps you on track and gives you a visual record of accomplishment. The very act of writing out a list and referring to it constantly should increase your productivity by at least 25 percent from the time you start doing it.

Third, set priorities on your list. Think the list through before you begin the first task. Use the 80/20 Rule continually. Identify the 20 percent of activities on your list that can account for 80 percent of the value of your entire list. Begin your work on the items in the top 20 percent before you do anything else. The most important measure of the importance or value of any task is the potential consequences of doing it or failing to do it. An important task or activity has significant consequences. An unimportant task has few or no consequences at all. Completing a critical assignment for your boss or for a major customer is a top priority because the consequences of failing to do it can be significant. Having lunch with a coworker is an activity of low value because the consequences of doing it or not doing it are insignificant.

  1. Use the ABCDE Method Daily 

Use the ABCDE Method to set work priorities. Place one of these letters before each task on your list before you begin.


  • An “A” task is something that is important. It is something you must do. It is something for which there are significant consequences if you do it or fail to do it. If you have more than one “A” task to do, organize them as A-1, A-2, A-3, and so on, in order of importance.
  • A “B” task is something that you should do. There are consequences if it is done or not done, but it is not as important as an “A” task. Never work on a “B” task when there is an “A” task left undone. Refuse to work on a lower priority when there is a higher priority waiting.
  • A “C” task is something that would be nice to do but has no consequences at all. For example, reading the paper, going for coffee with a coworker, or calling home to see what’s for dinner are all “C” tasks. They contribute nothing to your job or your success. Never work on a “C” task when there is a “B” task left undone.
  • A “D” task is anything you can delegate to someone else. The rule is that you should delegate everything that can possibly be done by anyone else so that you can free more time to do the few things only you can do. Ask yourself, “What can I and only I do that, if done well, will make a real difference to my company?” Delegate as much as possible so that you can spend more time working on the one task that is the answer to this question, the one task that can really make a difference.
  • An “E” task is something you can eliminate altogether. Doing it or not doing it has no consequences at all. It is something that may have been important in the past but that you can discontinue today with no real effect on your job or your future.
  1. Separate the Urgent From the Important

Another way to set priorities before you begin is to separate the urgent from the important. An urgent task is something that seems pressing or timely, such as a phone call or an emergency. An important task is something that can have serious consequences if it is done or not done.

  • Urgent-Important. Something that is both urgent and important is a task that is “in your face.” This is something you have to do immediately. Your job may depend on it. The consequences for nonperformance of an urgent and important task can be serious. This type of task is always associated with external demands and other people. This type of work, urgent and important, is where most people spend their time.
  • Not urgent-important. Tasks that are important but not urgent are usually tasks on which you can procrastinate at least temporarily. These are also the tasks that can have the greatest possible consequences, positive or negative, for the long term. For example, writing a key report, pursuing a course of study, spending time with your children when they are growing up, and even exercising to keep fit are all tasks that are important but not urgent. You can put them off until later, and you often do. But they can have significant positive or negative consequences in the long term. These tasks and activities can give you tremendous leverage and enable you to multiply yourself and your efforts. The more time you spend on tasks that are important though not urgent, the more effective and productive you become in the long term.
  • Urgent-Not important. Tasks that are urgent but not important include ringing telephones, coworkers who want to talk to you, and incoming mail. These tasks appear pressing, but in terms of consequences they are not important at all. Most people spend an enormous amount of time doing things that are urgent but not important. While appearing busy, they often delude themselves into thinking that they are doing something of value, even though this is seldom true.
  • Not urgent-not important. Tasks that are neither important nor urgent are largely a waste of time, especially when they take you away from more productive activities. Many people spend half their time doing things that are neither important nor urgent. They make the mistake of thinking that they are doing something of value just because they are at work when they are doing it.

A major key to high productivity is for you to focus on completing all your urgent and important work and then to concentrate on activities that are important but not urgent. Meanwhile, you must delay, defer, delegate, and discontinue all other tasks. You must discipline yourself to stop doing the things that are urgent but not important and those that are neither urgent nor important.

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined.

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