The ABC 123 Method Explained, Is It Really Effective?

Learning to focus on the right task every day is a time management skill that seems daunting at first, but once mastered can create amazing opportunities as your days are more productive, and you can achieve your goals faster and easier. There are many methods out there to organize your task list, but today we will be discussing the ABC 123 Method.

The ABC 123 method is a time management tool used to organize a task list by categorizing the most important task (A) to important but not a priority (B) to the least important (C). Additionally, the method then orders the tasks in each category by 1, 2, and 3 for completion.

The ABC 123 Method

If you struggle to focus or struggle to determine which tasks are more important than others, then keep on reading so you can apply this method in your daily routine.

What is the ABC Method?

The ABC method was created by Alan Lakein to prioritize tasks for a better and more efficient way of spending your time. The method focuses on analyzing your tasks and assigning them categories to identify which is more important than others, in other words, which one to focus on and tackle first.

Let’s identify each category in detail so you know how to correctly identify your task list.

A – The “Must Be Done” – The Most Important and Critical

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Can this wait?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Is someone counting on me/waiting on me to get this done?
  • Does this directly affect my goals?
  • Would I feel more or less anxious if I don’t get this done today?
  • Are there consequences if I don’t get this done today?

These are the tasks that will keep you up at night if you don’t get them done today. They are the most impactful and critical tasks that will help you succeed in your daily work. These have high consequences if you don’t do it; they are top priority, nonnegotiable, and will get done today no matter what.

B – The “Should Be Done” – Important But Not Top Priority

You can ask yourself the same questions from above and if the answers are not as urgent, then it can be labeled with “B”. These are tasks that you would like to get done because they are important, but time may not permit. You will feel better tackling these tasks once all your “A” tasks are complete. They may not be a priority today but can be a priority within the week. It’s not a big deal if these get bumped from today to tomorrow.

C – The “Nice To Do” – Low Value

The “C” column is the least important task. These tasks are not at all urgent and will get done if there is any time left in the day. They are things you would like to do, but if it’s not happening then it’s not happening. Their deadlines are within the next week or month, no one is waiting on you, they are not that important and they don’t have any consequences, but you would like to get it done eventually.

This category is also great to put mindless chores you would like to get done, or something fun like a hobby. You have to finish everything labeled “A” and “B” first before you can do “C”, so by the time you get to “C” you most likely won’t have much brain power or energy left.

Do you have random things like dropping off dry cleaning or picking up milk on the way home from work? You can also label these tasks as “C” unless you strictly separate work from personal.

What is the 123 Priority System?

Easy 123 Priority System

After you complete the ABC method, at this point, you should have a list of all your tasks labeled, “A”, “B”, or “C”. You’re ready to schedule your day, but how do you know which to do first? The 123 priority system is simply a system to determine the order in which you will complete the tasks.

This type of method will differ from person to person and from job to job, so decide what is best for you. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Start with the task that is the most time-consuming and requires the most energy
  1. Start with the task that requires the most energy and concentration
  1. Start with the task that you least enjoy to get it out of the way first
  1. Start with the task that has the earliest deadline for the day

Whichever method you choose, you will start with tasks in the “A” category and you will label it A-1, then A-2, then A-3, and so on with B and C., That’s where the 1, 2, 3 come in, you are simply putting it in the order that you are going to complete it.

Eventually, what will happen is when you write A-1 on your to-do list, you understand that the task is top-of-the-line important and you will need to focus on it and get it done, first thing, no matter what. Once you navigate the day, you have better use of your energy and time when you understand the task is a level A-3 versus a C-1. Once you’re on the C level you know you have already completed everything that was A and B for that day and now you’re feeling more accomplished.

Is the ABC 123 Method Effective?

So now we have gone over the ABC and 123 methods, they are two separate methods that once combined, help organize tasks for the day. Essentially, ABC is for prioritizing and 123 is for order of completion. This method is simple, and simple works best for a lot of people.

The goal of this method is to not only help you stay focused but focused on the right things. Aimlessly checking off a daily task list with any kind of order will leave you feeling overwhelmed, while focusing on the right tasks will leave you feeling accomplished. Your day-to-day must also help you achieve the bigger goals that you have set for yourself, so always review your tasks to make sure you are heading in the right direction.

Any kind of organizational tool will be effective if you stick to it. Anyone can have an organized task list all labeled accordingly and ready to go, but it’s the people that take action and stay with it over time, that will succeed. These organizational tools are simply just that, they are tools. Anyone can purchase tools, but it’s up to the builder to get to building.


Don’t dwell on finding the perfect method to achieve your goals. Take action, that’s what really matters. The ABC 123 method is just another blueprint for people to have some sort of guideline to get started, but the way to find if it works is to start using it frequently so you know what works best for you.

However, if this method feels too simple and you are interested in other methods, you can check them out here: The ALPEN Method, The 1-3-5 Rule, or The 4 D’s of Time Management.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

Recent Posts