Why The 'ABCDE Method' Is A Much More Effective Tool Than An Ordinary To-Do List

Written By Jari Roomer

A normal to-do list doesn’t work. Even though it’s the most popular productivity tool, it’s seriously flawed. The problem with an ordinary to-do list is that it’s merely a list of tasks you’d like to get done in a day.

But here’s the catch; Not all tasks matter equally.

Some tasks have disproportionate results compared to other tasks. These high-impact tasks should be identified, prioritized, and completed first. That’s the key to fast progress towards your goals.

A To-Do List Creates A False Sense of Productivity

In reality, it’s precisely these high-impact tasks that we tend to procrastinate on the most. They are often more complex, time-consuming, and energy-draining. Therefore, we tend to push these tasks to the magical land of ‘tomorrow,’ and we’d rather work on many easy tasks that we can quickly cross off our to-do list. This makes us feel good. It makes us feel productive.

For me, this meant I used to have a to-do list with 24 items on it, complete 21 low-impact tasks from that list, and I’d still feel productive. In reality, however, I didn’t make much progress (if any at all) towards my goals because the high-impact tasks still didn’t get done. They were always pushed to ‘tomorrow.’

I thought I did well, but I was just keeping myself very busy with many low-impact tasks that didn’t matter much. This explained why I worked hard (according to the traditional sense) without earning a single dollar in revenue in my first year as an entrepreneur.

The lesson I learned was simple, but profound:

Being busy or working hard isn’t the same as making progress or being effective. You can be incredibly busy without being highly effective — and you can be highly effective even though you’re not very busy.

This lesson was a complete gamechanger. I found that on my enormous daily to-do list, only two or three tasks really made a difference. These tasks generated the most income, impact, and progress towards my goals. Yet, it was precisely those tasks that I used to procrastinate the most on.

You Need A Better Productivity Tool

Again, an ordinary to-do list can trick you into a false sense of productivity because you might complete a lot of items from your to-do list, but still procrastinate on the few high-impact tasks that truly matter. Nevertheless, you still feel good and productive because you did a lot.

This is why an ordinary to-do list is a flawed productivity tool — and why you need a better one. Throughout the day, you shouldn’t only be reminded of all the tasks that still need to be done, you should be primarily reminded of the high-impact tasks that still need to be done. That’s pretty much the only thing that matters.

You can work like crazy on low-impact tasks such as answering emails, unnecessary meetings, tweaking your website, instant messaging, and commenting on social media, but they are never going to make you successful.

Yes, they keep you very busy, but how much does it actually contribute to your overall goals? Not much.

On the other hand, high-impact tasks such as product creation, working on your sales funnel, skill development, hiring- or training employees, growing your audience and email list, marketing, and content creation contribute to the most income, impact, or progress.

These high-impact tasks should always be prioritized if you want to excel in your field and get much better results in less time. Therefore, we need an effective productivity tool that, on a daily basis, easily reminds us which tasks matter most and which tasks matter least.

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The ABCDE Method — The To-Do List On Steroids

After a year of keeping myself busy without really being effective or getting the results I desired using an ordinary to-do list, I decided to truly study productivity and peak performance.

That’s when I stumbled upon the ABCDE Method, a productivity tool introduced by business and self-development author Brian Tracy. I like to call the ABCDE Method a ‘to-do list on steroids’ because it kind of looks like a to-do list, but it’s much better.

There are only two steps to the ABCDE Method. The first step is easy. Just create a list of the tasks you’d like to get done today — your ordinary to-do list.

The second step is a bit harder. You need to assign the letters A, B, C, D, or E to each of these tasks. These letters indicate the level of priority of each item on your to-do list.

A-Tasks:

Assign the letter ‘A’ to the most important items on your list. These high-impact tasks lead to the most income and progress towards your goals. In other words, these tasks are your priorities for the day.

If you neglect these tasks for too long, they have serious consequences for your goals and overall level of success. 

Therefore, you should make it your daily mission to complete these tasks no matter what. All other tasks are a distraction until your A-items have been completed.

Important Note: Often, there are only between 1–3 items on your ABCDE list that are truly important enough to be considered ‘A’ tasks. Really be strict here about what’s mission-critical and what’s not.

The ABCDE Method by Brian Tracy

B-Tasks:

Assign the letter ‘B’ to the items on your to-do list that are important, but not as important as your A-tasks. It would be nice to get these tasks done, but they should never get in the way of your A-tasks.

C-Tasks:

Assign the letter ‘C’ to the items that aren’t that important to get done today. Whether you complete them or not, it doesn’t have a lot of impact on your goals, career, or happiness. These tasks should only be done if all of your A-tasks and B-tasks have been completed. If you procrastinate on these tasks, it’s not that big of a deal.

D-Tasks:

Assign the letter ‘D’ to the items you could (and should) Delegate to others because they can do it faster, cheaper, or better. Effective delegation is essential for higher productivity. The more you delegate, the more time and energy you have for those A-tasks, which leads to better and faster results.

Personally, I delegate all my video editing and design work to have more time and energy for creating courses, writing articles, and improving my sales funnels. Nowadays, you can use platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork to easily outsource tasks.

E-Tasks:

Assign the letter ‘E’ to the items that don’t have to be done today, so they can be Eliminated from your list. Remember, not everything has to be done. A lot of things don’t matter much, if anything at all. I found that when you focus more on the high-impact tasks, a lot of the low-impact tasks tend to dissolve.

You’ll likely have multiple tasks of the same category. For example, you’ll have multiple A-tasks or multiple B-tasks. To further rank them based on their level of importance, assign numbers to them. For example, an A1 task is more important than an A2 task, which is more important than your A3 task, etc.

Now Do It

The ABCDE Method is the perfect companion to help you stay on top of your priorities and high-impact tasks. Therefore, I recommend you stop using an ordinary to-do list and start using the ABCDE method. Remember, change only comes from taking action — not just from gathering more information.

To Your Success,

Jari Roomer

Want to be more productive? Get the free ’27 Productivity Hacks For Superhuman Performance’ guide!

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