Earlier in my career, as an audit manager, I worked for an audit partner named Joe. He was a great boss. He was always willing to let me try new things and take on new responsibilities. He was good at his job, and clients and employees loved working with him. He used to come to my office door (imagine a Kramer-like entrance on Seinfeld) and say, “Courtney, what should I do next? Tell me what’s most pressing, and I’ll go work on it.” At the time, I remember thinking, “get it together, man!” I thought he was just disorganized. But now, as a leader, I totally get it. He was overwhelmed. If someone could tell me exactly what to focus on each day, it would make things so much easier!
It’s hard to stay focused. We’re constantly distracted by other people’s priorities, our overflowing email inbox, messages and alerts on our phones, and the list goes on and on. As a result, we often get to the end of the day feeling exhausted and unsure of what we accomplished. The distractions aren’t the only problem, though. Our never-ending to-do lists are also to blame.
The Power of Three
You can stay focused on the most important things by setting and accomplishing your three most important things each day. I know what you’re thinking… only three?!? But think about it. How many important things did you accomplish yesterday? My guess is less than three. You likely accomplished a lot more than three things, but they probably weren’t all important to you. Most of the tasks we complete each day are urgent, quick/easy distractions, or important to someone else.
Imagine how it would feel to complete 15 of your most important tasks each week. That’s what happens when you intentionally set and accomplish three important things each workday. That adds up to approximately 700 important tasks each year (even when counting time off for weekends, vacations, and holidays).
I started doing this four years ago when I began using the Full Focus Planner (and then became certified to teach the system to others). The “Daily Big 3” is one of the tools within the Full Focus System. You’ll find it at the top of each daily page in the planner. Here’s how it works:
1. Decide your Daily Big 3
- Review your to-do list, your calendar, and your goals and projects.
- Determine what’s most important. It doesn’t have to be urgent, just important.
- Prioritize three (or fewer) items from your list.
2. Write them down
- Write your Daily Big 3 on the daily page of your planner or a sticky note on your desk.
- Keep the list visible throughout the day, and check them off as you complete them.
- Block time on your daily calendar for completing the tasks.
3. Make it a habit
- Create a consistent habit of doing this daily.
- You could do this at the start of your day or at the end of the day (for the following day).
- Use an activation trigger, like a reminder on your phone, to help you install the habit.
Shift from trying to get everything done to getting the right things done.
You will still have other less important tasks to complete. The idea is to intentionally identify the three most important tasks each day and focus on those first. Resist the urge to complete whatever is most urgent or right in front of you. You won’t complete all three tasks 100% of the time. When this happens, carry it over to the next day and complete it then. If this happens repeatedly, you may need to select only one or two items to prioritize instead of three.
When you get in the practice of setting and accomplishing three important things each day, you’ll notice you get to the end of the day feeling confident and productive. You’ll be able to transition into your evening without feeling like there’s still so much left to do.
You can stay focused on the most important things by setting and accomplishing your 3 most important tasks each day. Download a sample Full Focus Planner Daily Page to get started, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win your own Full Focus Planner.