The Science of People posted a new productivity technique on their blog today called “Alphabet Work”.
So what is this system?
When planning a team’s set tasks (or even an individual's daily schedule) the first question we always ask is “how long will this task take?” or “how much time do I have to finish this task?”. We always first look at the time aspect of a schedule, which seems natural since a schedule is about time management, but is this the most productive approach? According to the Science of People, it’s not. Instead of asking how much time a task will take, we should be asking “how good am I at tasks X, Y, and Z?” Perhaps organizing by skill level will naturally lead to a more organized time schedule.
What is A work? These are the tasks in which you’re most confident, most productive, and you genuinely enjoy doing. This is where you shine and naturally work with ease.
“ ‘A work’ would have gotten you A’s in school. It comes easy to you. It makes you feel smart. It’s your favorite kind of work to get into the flow. Time flies when you are doing “A work” and it makes your day better.” - Science of People
You’re good at it, but it’s not your favorite. You see, the A work is the work that you’re best at. With B work, you’re no longer the best. However, you’re still pretty confident.
These are the tasks that you’re average at. You don’t love it, but you can pull it off with only a few mistakes. This isn’t your area of expertise but if it’s necessary you can figure it out.
Now things are starting to go a little downhill. This is the work that you’re always putting off, you don’t enjoy it, and it takes you way too long to get it done.
At this point, it’s probably best for you to avoid your F work at all costs. You’re not good at these tasks and it’s a waste of time because you’ll do it very poorly anyhow.
Now that you know how this system works, I can tell you how to use it.
This system works especially great for a team. Everyone’s different, we all have different skills and whatever is on Joe’s F list may be on Lisa’s A list - so all you have to do is make sure the work is dispersed accordingly. For an individual, however, this is a little more tricky.
For example, I’ll here’s a list of all of the tasks I had at my previous job and my personal rankings.
Most of these tasks I consider A or B work and there’s only two C’s. This is exactly how it should be, none of your tasks should be below a C. But how do we take this system and apply it to an one’s daily schedule?
“Have you ever seen the big-rock experiment? You get a bucket and fill it half full of small pebbles. You then try to put several big rocks in the bucket, on top of the pebbles. But they don’t all fit. So you empty the bucket and start over. This time you put the big rocks in the bucket first, followed by the pebbles. The pebbles neatly fill in the spaces around the big rocks. This time it all fits!” - Covey
This is rough list of some of the work I do throughout the week:
Think of your C work as your big rocks, with the exception of tasks that maybe need to get done a specific time, otherwise get the harder work done first, then move on to B and A work. From a weekly perspective, it might be better to take your C work and focus on that for the first few days of the week and then the rest of the week will be easier. From a daily perspective, it’s best to complete the tasks that need to be done based on how soon their due.