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