Do you have trouble sticking with a to do list? I tried so many different methods. None of them worked. I combined them with the theory of doing something for at least 7 days to create a habit. I still failed to make any of them stick. I would spend more time managing my to do list instead of doing the jobs. Or worrying about the list.
I worked with people who used them effectively. I replicated their systems. Still a failure. I researched ways that worked for other people. Still a failure. Forming the habit was not a problem. I can do that and the best example is operating a zero inbox. It took work, however, it’s proof I can do something difficult like that one.
You don’t need any fancy apps or spreadsheets.
Eventually I came across the three item to do list method. Wish I could remember where I first read about it to give them credit. Like most of my other strategies/methodologies, the simplicity is key.
At the beginning of the day, or the end of the previous one, write down the three things you want to achieve. I tend to put them in order. Not vital to your success although a good idea to prioritise them. Make them achievable. Write a book is obviously not going to be something you can cross off in a day. Writing 1500 words is though.
You don’t need any fancy apps or spreadsheets. Some people use a small piece of paper, I have a page in my notebook. A pen and paper is all you require. It is important that you have it somewhere visible throughout the day. Just in case you start to lose focus, it is a reminder.
By narrowing down your priorities to just three at a time, you are forcing yourself to think what is the most important and the most urgent. This works in well with the four quadrant idea of urgent, not urgent, important and not important.
Once you have the three items, start working. Of course you will have other things come up during the day such as phone calls, emails and appointments. That’s to be expected. The thing is, you must get back to the items on the list.
Once you have finished one, cross it off and move on to the next one. Do not add one more to the list. This is important. You need to finish all three. They were the things you decided were your priorities. If you add more before finishing all of them, you run the risk of one or two always dropping down the list.
When all three are completed you can start again. Why can’t it be five or that magic seven number of items I hear you ask. The answer is two-fold.
- Narrowing all your competing tasks down to just three really forces you to think about the importance of all of them
- Only having three helps you maintain focus on those priorities
That’s it. Nothing too complicated there. Gone will be the days of spending more time managing your to do list rather than actually doing the tasks. You will no longer have to keep transferring all those tasks to the next day, or colour coding them and then forgetting what each colour means!
Even if you manage to only cross off two items, the psychological effect of seeing two of three crossed off is much better than two of ten or more. Of course you’re too smart to fall for something so simple aren’t you?
As you can imagine, this concept doesn’t have to be restricted to your work life. It can work just as well in your personal life.
- Have you struggled with productivity and to do lists?
- Is your method overly complicated and difficult to stick with?