I Love Productivity
That’s why I always started by day with a long to-do list, ranked by priority.
Checking the items as “complete” was a visual indicator of success.
But, at the end of the day there were always a zillion items WITHOUT a check mark. And the number of tasks being added to the list was growing faster than the ones being removed. Not exactly a definition of productivity.
That visual reminder of a success was becoming a visual reminder of failure.
My precious to-do list was becoming a source of stress and anxiety and consequently making me less productive. It was a vicious feedback loop. That dark cloud of overwhelm was gathering.
An out-of-control list has always been an issue for me, even when I had a regular corporate job. But now, working from home as a online solopreneur, it’s worse.
I guess that comes with the territory. It’s probably true of anyone in a work-from-home role.
Now, what—dump the To-Do-List?
That list is a record of all the critical items.
The list stays, but my focus has to change.
There’s a meme about having one priority for the day. That seems logical. Or . . . does it?
Who am I fooling by saying there’s only ONE thing I need to do in a day. I know my real list has a zillion items. I can’t lie to myself.
Getting Real with Priorities
Let’s go with the number 3. I’ll prioritize 3 things for my day. It’s a compromise and it’s working so far.
The first thing is my #1 priority, but the 2nd and 3rd things are important and need to get done as well. Of course, this requires setting a reasonable scope.
The first item can’t be, “Create a New Business Plan”. It needs to be reasonable, as subset of the larger task, such as, “Identify the top 5 competitors and their strengths and weakness”.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling especially ambitious, I’ll commit to completing the 3 things before lunch. Then, I’ll pull out my longer list and tackle several more after lunch. The day feels like I’ve exceeded my goals. I guess that’s a hack on my psychology.
Why not 2 or 4 or 5 as a priority?
The Magic of 3
There seems to be a mystical quality to the number 3. It’s a dominant number in our culture and psyche. Three is a number commonly used to signify completeness in many religions. The pattern is used in literature constantly. The Three Little Pigs, The Good-The Bad and The Ugly, Past-Present and Future, The Third Time is the Charm . . .
I have no idea why 3 is such a powerful number. But, a deep understanding isn’t required to leverage it.
Pick the three most important items from your lengthy list, and make them your priority for the day. Do this for a week.
You’re probably screaming – “I can’t limit myself to three things in a day, that’s crazy!” No, you’re wrong.
- Picking your top three ensures that the most important stuff gets done, regardless of what else happens.
- You won’t spend the entire day completing these tasks. Contrary to popular myth, the time will not expand to fit the tasks—if you can stay “on task.”
- You’ll feel like a success at the end of the day when you check-off the three things, and probably a few more.
The idea of 3 priorities each day is part of my Clarity Journalling process.
If you want to learn more about productivity, clarity and habit formations, try my free 14-day challenge.
You’ll receive a new step each day and a short assignment. At the end of 14 days, you’ll have a habit process that may well last a lifetime.
A strategic habit routine is like a superpower we all have within us. We’re simply overlooking it, unaware of its potential.
If you want to know more about my journey, you’ll find it here.