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August 19, 2018

In a world where every app, notification and email is vying for your attention, it seems impossible to know where to focus your energy. Life is busy when you’re trying to juggle a demanding job and personal engagements, and you never seem to have enough time to accomplish everything that you need to. However, there is a simple solution to this productivity problem: the three item to-do list.

As productivity journalist Laura Vanderkam has written, “A 3 item to-do list is doable, you do these things and move on. Over time, this adds up. 3 things per work day is 15 per week. That’s 750 in a 50-week year. Better to choose 750 tasks carefully, and score 750 for 750 than aim for 5000 and do less.”

 

Here are three reasons to start your three item to-do list and be more productive:

1. It trains you to prioritize

When you make your three item to-do list, you focus in on the three most important tasks for the day. By marking three tasks as the most important, you have an opportunity to analyze which tasks will make the biggest impact in your work.

The trick is to select tasks that are important, accomplishable in one day, and will move you forward with your goals. These criteria ensure that the tasks you pick to be more productive will make a significant impact.

2. It keeps you focused

How many times have you sat down at your desk with the best of intentions, only to get side-tracked by an email or phone call? When there are only three tasks to accomplish, you feel motivated to get them finished first. Decide on the tasks before checking emails or talking to coworkers and clients. This way, you are effecting change, rather than reacting to whatever new problem is arising.

While you will likely do many more things than the listed three throughout the course of a day, putting focus on the three most important tasks, encourages you to prioritize them. Instead of hopping from unfinished task to unfinished task, unsure what takes precedence, you have already decided what needs to be executed that day.

3. It motivates you for the next day

At the end of the day, it is so easy to feel like you have gotten nothing done. When you get distracted by coworkers or workplace emergencies, it often seems like your plans for the day get tossed aside. There always seems to be other tasks that you might have completed or ways you might have been more productive.

By listing three tasks and completing them in the course of the day, you have accomplished what you set out to do. There is no endless, overwhelming to-do list. You have completed three important items, and anything else that you accomplish throughout the day is a bonus.  

Much like exercise, completing a task releases dopamine into your system, keeping you relaxed and motivated for the next day. This continues daily, driving you towards your goals and making an actionable difference in your life.


According to LinkedIn, only 11% of professionals complete their to-do list on a daily basis. When a to-do list is unfocused and never ending, it fosters distraction, rather than focus. By editing your list to only three items, you teach yourself to prioritize, and be more productive.  

In Warren Buffet’s words, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything”.


What are your productivity tips? Let us know in the comments.

Looking to improve in all areas? Here’s some tips for keeping healthy over the summer.


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