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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

How much can you get done in a day?

Categories: working mom


I have a tiny bit of an obsession with productivity.

I am always looking for ways to accomplish more in less time, aspiring to be at least as productive as the First Lady. I’ve experimented with planners and list systems and giving up sleep, all in the name of doing more.  I stumbled across an interesting productivity tip recently that has made me completely re-evaluating the way I think about “getting things done”.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the original article or author who gave me the idea, but the idea itself is impossible to forget:

Do three things every day.

Not five or 10 - three.  Can you imagine?  Just three tasks every single day!

The concept is based on breaking your big goals up into manageable daily bites.  Each day, write down three mini-goals you want to accomplish before the end of the day.  If you find you’re struggling to get all three things done, you’re mini-goals are still too big.  Of course, if you can accomplish everything in 15 minutes, you may want to consider thinking bigger.

When I first read this, I thought that whoever was giving this advice surely did not have near as many responsibilities as I did - because… 3?  Just 3?  I must do 100 things every single day!  At least, that was my initial thought.  But when I sat down and looked at what I was accomplishing every day, I found that I was actually being much less productive than I wanted to be.  Sure, I was doing a lot - answering emails, making phone calls, writing lists, folding laundry, meeting deadlines - but I definitely wasn’t making progress on my big goals every day.  In fact, I’d say that most days I was mainly reacting to whatever was thrown at me.

I started focusing on three daily goals.

The result has been two-fold:

1. I get more done. Surprisingly, narrowing my focus has actually helped me to achieve more and I’ve made significant progress on big projects that I’d been putting off for a long time.  I still have tedious daily tasks and emails that need responding to, but they no longer prevent me from accomplishing the things that are most important to me.

2. I have more down time. The benefit of having three clear daily defined goals is that I know when I can call it quits for the day, regardless of what the clock says.  I have the luxury of turning off the computer at 2pm in the afternoon if I want and switching into family mode or friend mode or all-by-myself mode, which has done wonders for my work-life balance and sanity.  If you work in an office or have set hours, you might not be able to pack up and leave at noon, but you may find yourself having an easier time of leaving your work at the office.

Of course, not everything I want to accomplish in life is work-related.  Using this system has also helped me make time for personal goals, which also leaves me feeling a lot less stressed and more zen.

If you find yourself treading water on your life lists, try doing just three things a day.  You might be surprised to discover how much more you get done.

Photo by notsogoodphotography

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4 comments so far...

  • Some years ago I was having trouble with balancing and feeling like I had done enough of what was important each day. (This was before kids, even.) I decided to commit to spend time every day on each of the following:

    - Career
    - Volunteering
    - Helping friends and family
    - Personal development

    The amount of time spent in each category did not matter, but I had to make some tangible effort toward each one each day. That helped me to keep all the priorities near the front of my mind, and to be more effective as a result. It also recognized the fact that sometimes, one priority has to take a back seat to another, but that doesn’t stop it from being a priority. And that there can be significant value in doing something that only takes a few minutes.

    SKL  |  October 27th, 2010 at 9:39 am

  • I think I might need to put this into action. I like it!

    Christine  |  October 27th, 2010 at 12:12 pm

  • Hi Britt, I’ve been doing this for a while now. I read about it at Zen Habits, and it really does work! I’ve also found that using a timer works wonders. I’ll set it first thing in the morning, half an hour to check and respond to mail and messages, then onto one of my three ‘big tasks’ also with a timer. I find that this way I am able to make time for everything that needs to get done and I don’t get distracted (on facebook or twitter).

    Michelle Robertson  |  October 28th, 2010 at 1:23 am

  • I am very organized and I can reach my day target most of the times. I take small pauses during the day and the night sleep is very important.

    Elena  |  November 1st, 2010 at 8:07 am