My biggest productivity tip is very simple. It isn’t a fancy application for your computer. It isn’t a complicated process. It is very basic and very easy. Here it is:
At the beginning of the day, take out a blank piece of paper and place it in the center of your desk. At the top write the three most important things you want to accomplish for the day. These are the three tasks that are important enough that their completion will allow you to declare the day a success–regardless of what else gets done.
That is it. It is simple and easy to do, but if you follow that advice you’ll find your productivity will skyrocket. Your day is like a jar that you are trying to fill with three large rocks and sand. If you put the sand in first, you can’t get the rocks in, but if you put the rocks in first, the sand will fill in around the rocks.
The three important tasks are like the rocks. If you get them into place, everything else will fill in around them. But if you let all the less important things rob you of the time you need to spend on the important things, you won’t be able to fit them in at the end.
For this to work, you need to make sure that your three important tasks aren’t things that will take 12 hours. Choose something reasonable, even if it means breaking some of the tasks down into smaller steps. What is reasonable depends on what type of work you do. For someone who works alone in an office and is rarely interrupted, trying to accomplish 5 or 6 hours of “important task” work may be possible. For many people, it may be only a couple hours because the rest of the day will be taken up dealing with emergencies and interruptions.
Now, if you are someone with a computer-based task list, you are probably thinking that you can skip the piece of paper. In my experience, the process of writing down the three most important tasks on a physical piece of paper with real ink and then crossing them off is a very important part of making this work. It isn’t that having things on the computer is bad, but taking these three tasks out of your normal system and getting them right in front of you is a powerful way to stay focused.
The goal of this system isn’t to try to schedule every possible minute. The goal is to make sure you are making progress toward the important things and not letting them get crowded out.
Leslie Walden says
I wholeheartedly agree with your productivity tip. As a productivity specialist, I always suggest to my clients that the first thing to do when they walk into the office is to select three important tasks they want to accomplish that day, Your idea to write them down and keep them in front of you makes a lot of sense. Often I recommend deciding when the tasks will be completed that day and filling them in at the specific times. Many people like the idea of printing the electronic calendar, especially if the person is visual and prefers “paper”.
Kayode AKINTOLA says
I agree with you although I do it slightly differently. I write out all I want to achieve for the day and they assign numbers to them in order of priority and I go after the first 3 on the list after which I start attending to the others. The undone ones get push to the next day.
Michael Gregory II says
I totally agree with you on this Mark!
People often complain they are not able to achieve anything because they expect immediate results and when they don’t see it, they’re likely to call themselves a failure. Everyday, we see successful people admired by millions, but not too many people think of the struggles they made everyday to get there. And one of the small and yet most important things to do is taking things one step at a time.
SallyE, iPad Assistant says
I almost agree with your premise. Probably because I do this myself. However, I don’t do it without the todo task manager along side. And, it works.
The task manager keeps all your tasks and projects saved and prioritized so that you have help with what’s most important today, each day. Because some of the sand-type tasks are in there, too, your method does indeed put the big rocks, the most important tasks, in front of us.
One more small problem. If you’re out and about, the paper in the pocket isn’t in front of you so much. I don’t see it as any better than a smart phone at that point. Perhaps the benefit continues to be that this paper has just the three important items, so the phone would have to carry a note with just those three items. Simple.
Thanks for the tip.