When I first learned about ABC prioritization, I used to wonder why C tasks even existed.
A tasks will change your reality. Just three of these tasks a day and you’re going to transition from dreaming to living the dream.
B tasks are also important. They represent most of what you get done in a day. They may not get you ahead, but they keep you from falling behind.
So what about C tasks?
I once saw ABC prioritization broken down as A) Very Important, B) Important, and C) Not Important. You need to accomplish all of your A tasks before you call it a day (so be careful how many A tasks you sign up for, I guess), as many of your B tasks as you can, and don’t worry if you don’t get to your C tasks.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to put C tasks on my list just to ignore them and not do them. I’m wasting attention and ink if I do that.
Instead, I like to think of three kinds of C tasks:
- Stretch targets. When you finish your A and B tasks, you can call it a day with a clear conscience. You’ve accomplished what you set out to do. You’re closer to living the life you’ve designed. But if you still have the time, energy, and inclination, your C tasks are like a bonus round of productivity. Big, small, doesn’t matter. There’s still daylight, so keep going.
- Stacked next actions. Let’s say you have half an hour to work on a project, so you select a half-hour task from that project for one of your B tasks. If that task only takes 10 minutes, you have a choice: you can either move on to the next project, or you can select two C tasks from the same project. This lets you keep to your original plan of putting half an hour towards the project today—you just overestimated how long that one task would take.
- On the bubble. If you’re not careful, tasks can linger forever. At some point, you either need to do it or let it go. These tasks aren’t important, or you’d have already done them, but you thought they were a good idea once. If you’re having difficulty letting go, put them on your today list as C tasks. If they’re still there a week later, cut them loose. They’ve had their chance.
All C tasks get the same treatment, no matter which kind of task it is: if you can knock them out, great. If not, there’s nothing to feel bad about.
Don’t put more than five C tasks on your today list. You want a selection from which you can choose, but you don’t want to be distracted by them.
It’s easy for C tasks to linger down in the junk drawer of your task list, so be sure to give them an expiration date. If you’ve made it this far without doing it, it’s probably something you can get by with never doing.
Eventually, some C tasks will get promoted to B tasks (or even A tasks) as their urgency rises. That’s fine. You’ll have just as many fall off and get dropped.
If you get to C tasks today, great. If not, you never committed to doing them, so there are no consequences to doing them later.
C tasks are the most volatile section on your task list. Day to day, the amount of time you have to work on tasks changes, and C tasks are where you have the greatest flexibility in deferring work to protect your A tasks.