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Three ways to think about Prioritization

Updated: Mar 30

1. Urgency vs. Importance (Steven Covey)

Consider the importance (or “weight”) of the items on your list, and the urgency “when is it due?”


Not Urgent


Quadrant 1:

Examples: Things due today or tomorrow, dealing with emergencies or crises.

Quadrant 2:

Examples: Long-term projects planning ahead, studying in advance, getting started early.

Not Important

Quadrant 3:

Examples: Interruptions, distractions, fun events that come up, social invitations.

Quadrant 4:

Examples: Time wasters, busy work, procrastination activities, aimless internet browsing.

2. The ABC Method (Alan Lakein)

The ABC Method was originally developed by Alan Lakein and consists of assigning a priority status of “A”, “B”, or “C” to each of the items of your to-do list or task list.

“A” Status Items - “Must Do”High priority, very important, critical items, with close deadlines or high level of importance to them.“B” Status Items - “Should Do”Medium priority, quite important over time, not as critical as “A” items, but still important to spend time doing.“C” Status Items - “Nice to Do”Low priority at this time, low consequences if left undone at this moment.

3. Other Considerations... (adapted from David Allen)

  • What can I do where I'm? (Think about location. What can you do where you are now? Sometimes we have unexpected pockets of time. How can you use them to your advantage?)

  • How much time do I have and when do I have to do something else? (Be realistic about what can' be done. Your to do list might shift based on how much time you have available)

  • How much energy & focus do I have? (What can you realistically take on right now?)

  • What has the highest payoff for me if I do it? (Yet another way to think about importance, weight, or priorities)


  • Allen, D. Getting Things Done Website & Newsletter:

  • Covey, S.R (1987). “Principles of Personal Management”, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. NY: Fireside.

  • Haynes. M.E. (2009). Time Management: Get an extra day a week. 4th Ed. Axzo Press.

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