In all planning, long-range, middle-range, or short-range, you should 1. make a list, and 2. set priorities. Not all the items on a list are of equal value. Once you have made your list, set priorities based on what is important to you now. In my opinion, no list is complete until it shows priorities. Whenever you make a list, finish it by setting priorities.
I like to use the ABC Priority System; write a capital “A” to the left of those items on the list that have a high value; a “B” for those with medium value; and a “C” for those with low value. As you do this, you know that to some extent you’re guessing. You’re not sure you’ll be right on the value. But comparing the items to one another will help you come up with the ABC priority choices for every entry on the list.
Items marked A should be those the yield the most value. You get the most of your time by doing the A’s first, and saving the B’s and C’s for later. Taking account the time of day and the urgency of the items, you can break them down further so that A-items becomes A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4.
Once having made your evaluation, begin to work your way systematically through the A’s. Whenever you find yourself working on a B or a C (cleaning the toilet, for example, when you have a term paper or project due the next day) stop and ask yourself: What’s going on here? Are you avoiding a legitimate A activity? If so, why? At first, you may simply be mislabeling but, with some practice, holding yourself to A activities becomes a potent way to increase your effectiveness.
ABC’s may change over time. Today’s A may become tomorrow’s C, while today’s C becomes tomorrow’s A. You need to set priorities continually, considering the best use of your time right now.
Obviously, it’s not worthwhile to make a big effort for a task of little value. On the other hand, a project with high value can be worth a great deal of effort. Only good planning will let you reap maximum benefits from minimum time investments.