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What does D.A. have against ABC-123?

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  • What does D.A. have against ABC-123?

    I know that the ABC-123 technique is simpler than the GTD system as a whole, and inadequate for some, but it may be useful as an available option for prioritising at least some tasks, within one's GTD system. Maybe the motivation for David Allen to so aggressively attack ABC-123 was primarily competition and brand differentiation, rather than its potential usefulness. Why not use ABC-123 to prioritise tasks? What are the pros and cons?

  • #2
    If your life is as simple as ABC...

    Originally posted by Deluna View Post
    I know that the ABC-123 technique is simpler than the GTD system as a whole, and inadequate for some, but it may be useful as an available option for prioritising at least some tasks, within one's GTD system. Maybe the motivation for David Allen to so aggressively attack ABC-123 was primarily competition and brand differentiation, rather than its potential usefulness. Why not use ABC-123 to prioritise tasks? What are the pros and cons?
    If your life is as simple as ABC or 123 you can use three level prioritization scheme. But in most cases life is multidimensional and dynamic.

    What is more important:
    - your child's health
    or
    - a flat tire in your car?

    At the strategic level your child's health is more important. But not when you're stuck somewhere on the road.

    In the planning/thinking phase there are more dimensions so it's counterproductive to try to use a three-level prioritization only.

    In the doing phase it's a simple binary decision: do or don't do.
    Last edited by TesTeq; 12-01-2011, 10:05 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Deluna View Post
      Why not use ABC-123 to prioritise tasks?
      Take it from someone who's tried harder than just about anyone else to make ABC-123 work:

      It does not work in this day and age of rapid change. Don't waste time and effort trying to make it work.

      I used to expend huge chunks of time formally planning my day with ABC-123 lists only to have a single e-mail, phone call or visit to my desk immediately wreck it. So what did I do? I tried even harder to make it work until I drove myself to distraction, broke down, abandoned that system, gave GTD a look, learned why what I was doing didn't work and changed my methods.

      "A fool fails to learn from his own mistakes but only a complete idiot fails to learn from the mistakes of others!" --Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane

      It's far more efficient and effective to just know what all of your commitments are, plan as little as you can get by with and moment-to-moment make intuitive choices about what to do.
      Last edited by ellobogrande; 12-01-2011, 06:46 AM. Reason: Quoted Frasier Crane

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      • #4
        What is priority?

        I'm now a bitt dull and just quote someone else, who IMO gave a good describtion what's problematic with simple prioritizing: http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...3502#post93502

        Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
        It all starts with the problem that everybody calls different things "priorities". Some talk about their "priorities" but mean "things I am stressed about, because I did not finish them yet". Others have a list of "priorities" in minde and think of them as "list of things that my philosophy/worldview deems important". Yet others just mean "these things are urgent" when they mention their "priorities". The actual meaning of "more important and therefore should get allocated more ressources" gets fuzzled into that somewhere. But then again, what does "important" actually mean?

        So, when people ask about priorities in GTD, what do they mean? I am stressed because I took on too much work? I do not know what to do with my life? My boss does not communicate properly? I am unclear about what to do today?
        Also, Power of GTD IMO is that when you have no energy to do anything coplicated, you still can do something usefull. Normal ABC-123 priority systems AFAIK don't support this behavior. They just expect you to do what's most important. Which in some cases is the only right thing to do. Also, ABC system doesn't work well with unexpected interruptions. IMO In GTD decision what to do is much more natural, fluid and dynamic. Priority is one criterion when deciding what to do. And it's very fluid criterion. If you want to use ABC-123 subsystem to manage your priorities in GTD then be our guest. No one will attack (at least not physically) you because of it.

        My answer to your title question: DA doesn't think ABC-123 works or is worth the work it needs to be implemented.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Deluna View Post
          I know that the ABC-123 technique is simpler than the GTD system as a whole, and inadequate for some, but it may be useful as an available option for prioritising at least some tasks, within one's GTD system. Maybe the motivation for David Allen to so aggressively attack ABC-123 was primarily competition and brand differentiation, rather than its potential usefulness. Why not use ABC-123 to prioritise tasks? What are the pros and cons?
          I take it that by ABC-123 you mean the prioritization system associated with Franklin (now Franklin-Covey) in which A means "Must Do", B "Should Do" and C "Could Do". Within that framework, daily tasks were numbered: A1 was the first of the A tasks, A2 the second. While this set of conventions did not originate with Hyrum Smith and Franklin, that's where most people have picked it up.

          A couple of comments:

          While ABC-123 is indeed simpler than the GTD system as a whole, the Franklin system is not. In addition to prioritization, it has Daily Task Lists, Monthly Lists, and a system for marking task status. If you compare GTD's context lists, they are much simpler to use.

          GTD is compatible with the use of both due dates and priorities on next action lists, but does not emphasize or require them.

          I am a sample size of one, but I tried for several years to make the Franklin system work for me: it didn't. It was clumsy and cumbersome. GTD works for me. My university provides Franklin planners to staff members if they want them, and several staff members in my department use them. I have never seen them using their planners for anything more than a simple calendar and occasional scratchpad.

          It's not clear to me how much ABC-123 appears in current Franklin-Covey training, which seems to have been diluted somewhat by the Franklin-Covey merger. I don't think it's an aggressive attack on Franklin-Covey to say that ABC-123 doesn't work well. GTD also differs from Franklin-Covey because it tends to be bottom-up, and both the Franklin and Covey approaches are top-down. David Allen has spoken respectfully of Covey's best-known work. Although their planners never worked very well for me, I have occasionally bought other things from their retail stores and wish them well.

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          • #6
            The real problem with ABC-123 is that things move too fast in our world for that sort of prioritizing to be of any real value. One email, message, or situation can completely mess up your ABC system and then you have to reevaluate the priorities that you made. It can even make you feel bad because you didn't get to do your "A" tasks, when you did handle the biggest priority you were facing.

            Plus, when you're scanning your action lists, your brain can automatically filter out what needs to be done next, without resorting to artificial ABC type systems.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Tspall View Post
              Plus, when you're scanning your action lists, your brain can automatically filter out what needs to be done next, without resorting to artificial ABC type systems.
              Mine can't - but I can't see that it should. If your GTD system is setup so you can do it when sick, then how can you possibly make a decision that aligns with your horizons of focus when you're sick? DA's way of determining priorities I just haven't found to work at all.
              So I came up with my own priority definitions for low,med,high and top priority and just sort them in order (after context and energy of course).

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                If your GTD system is setup so you can do it when sick, then how can you possibly make a decision that aligns with your horizons of focus when you're sick?
                If I'm sick, I'm probably not going to be too concerned about my horizons at that moment. I would be able to look over my list and either pick out something needing *very* low energy or give myself permission to not do anything on the list and just relax.

                But, if you've got a priority system that's keeping you focused on what you want to accomplish, that's good too. Focus is the main goal!

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