Steve Pavlina has an interesting article today called the 50-30-20 Rule. It is a concept similar to other A-B-C task allocations like Stephen Covey’s four-quadrant Plan-Plus approach, but it actually specifies how much time to invest in each type of activity. I like to think of the concept like the Zone Diet. The Zone Diet Allocates 40% carbohydrates, 30% Protein, and 30% fat in a diet plan. The term in the zone refers to how you feel when you partake of this mix of nutrients.
Steve breaks things down this way,
A tasks are expected to yield significant benefits over a 5-year time span and beyond.
B tasks are expected to yield benefits over a 2-year timespan or less.
C tasks are expected to make a difference only in the timespan of 90 days or less.
Steve’s Zone is 50% A Tasks, 30% B tasks, and 20% C tasks. Steve will feel most empowered when his day is divided up in this manner.
I think everyone can agree that it is the C tasks such as E-mail and phone calls that take up much of our time. Steve suggests listing things out on paper and planning a daily regimen of activities around the allocation. I have tried this approach in the past with Covey’s Plan-Plus system for Outlook in which you assign all tasks a letter priority and then sort items by importance. The problem that I have had with this system is it takes quite a bit of time each day to plan the days activities. I find that I spend more time planning than doing on many days.
I like Steve’s idea but I think it may work better divided up on a weekly basis with major portions of time allocated to certain tasks. I like David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” approach to time management. On my job I like to set aside a planning time at the beginning of the week. Then at the end of the week I like to set aside a “cleanup” time for filing and sorting e-mail. This helps me keep focused better on a daily basis. Instead of being in e-mail constantly I can better focus on my A and B tasks. The Getting Things Done Plugin for Outlook has been a big help for e-mail sanity and project management and I find it much quicker and easier than Covey’s Plan-Plus system.
One way Steve’s system would work for me would be to plan out times for A and B activities on a weekly basis first, allocate a percentage of time, and make them a priority. Then the C items will then fill in the gaps. It’s Covey’s idea of the big rocks (A-items) that need to be in place first. For example, I may set aside a whole day to a work on an “A-task” with my entire focus on that one project and then set aside a Friday afternoon for C items.
I think the real secret here is to test out some different scenarios and see what works for you.
As Steve says…
In the long run, it’s the A tasks that make or break us. If we don’t do them, we essentially let our potential go to waste. Who wants to devote the bulk of their lives to answering email and paying bills? We need to keep such tasks from taking over our lives, so we have time to tackle the truly great challenges that can make a real difference to us… and to the world.
The Time Zone is a great place to be…