How are you?
I get this question two or three times a day, and although I've been mindful about my responses, I find that lately my answers fall into three categories: good, tired, or busy. I’ve also done a combination of tired + busy. So I’ll say something like, “I’m tired. I just have sooo much stuff to do, you know.” The person who asked the question would give me an understanding look and admit that she did, indeed, know. She, too, was busy.
So we are all busy. We’re all rushing, trying to get a bazillion things done.
What’s on your to-do list? For me: a class, several meetings, student advising reports, designing an invitation for an event, responding to the 50+ unopened emails in my inbox, walking my dog Toby, writing three blog posts. These are just some of the things on my to-do list. The list keeps going and going. It isn't just long, it is looong.
I’m beginning to think it isn’t the doing of these things that tire us. We’re mentally exhausted from the idea of having to do all this stuff. How could I possibly get everything done? Where do I even start? What if I hate some of these things? What if some of them seem to suck the life out of my soul like the Dementors from Harry Potter? (Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but it sure feels like that sometimes.)
Making a list, checking it twice--whoops, not Christmas yet--and randomly getting things done hasn’t worked very well for me. Sometimes, I find myself purposely avoiding my to-do list, and then before I know it, it’s Friday and my list hasn't changed very much. Yikes.
That’s why this week I’m diving into a strategy that has been a bit more effective for me. For the past two months, I’ve been using The Power of Three to get things done. It’s also called the Rule of Three and has recently been popularized by productivity guru Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project. The best part about this strategy?
It helps me slow down. Instead of having to face a never-ending to-do list, this strategy allows me to schedule my days one at a time. It provides a system that neither overwhelms nor mentally exhausts me, allowing me to get things done.
How does The Power of Three work exactly?
Three is a special number. No one really knows why, but have you ever heard of the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit)? What about the three parts of a story (beginning, middle and end)? The Ghosts of Past, Present---right, not Christmas yet--Future? Or Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Three’s been around a long time. And I can’t believe I’m only just getting to know her.
Here’s how I use The Power of Three...
On Monday morning, I make a list of all the things I need to do for the week. Just action-oriented things. I exclude meetings or appointments of any kind because they’re on the office calendar. I don’t organize the list in any special way. It’s just an information dump. Then I plan each day separately, pulling from this list.
First thing in the morning, I look at the list and choose three things I know I have to get done that day. Then I write them down in my planner or on a sticky note and--here’s the key to getting them done--I just focus on those three things the whole day. When I get distracted, I’ll look at my three things and refocus.
I know what you’re thinking. But, Pa, if I only do three things a day, I won’t get anything done.
That is a totally legit concern, especially in our busy world of go, go, go. But think of it this way.
3 things per day X 5 days = 15 things per week
That’s a lot of things in my opinion. Not to mention the emails you’ll be responding to, the fires you’ll have to put out throughout the week, the people who come by your office asking for one thing or another, AND the meetings you have to go to. The Power of Three simply breaks up your to-do list into a more manageable and less overwhelming system.
You Have the Power to Design Your Day
Do you ever feel like you can’t breathe because of your to-do list? I used to feel like this all the time, and I still feel like this on days when I’m overwhelmed. Overwhelm happens when your mind can’t process all the information coming your way. Like when you’re trying to open three or four applications at the same time on your computer and none of them are responding.
One of my goals this year is to live with more intention. To make decisions with more reflection about how they are going to affect my life. This includes my day to day activities at the office which sometimes are not super-exciting but still have to get done. Using The Power of Three has allowed me to do this. I find that when I spend ten minutes in the morning--before I even open my email--planning the three things I’m going to get done that day, I feel less overwhelmed. I also feel like I have more control over my day.
The Power of Three isn’t about quickly getting things done, it’s about breaking down your to-do list into manageable parts so that you can put your energy and focus on a few things at a time. It’s about slowing down physically and mentally.
Maybe you don’t have a lot of control over what is on your to-do list, but you have some control over how you get those things done. Instead of opening your email the moment you get to the office, I challenge you to spend ten minutes planning out your day with just the three things you need to get done that day.
Completely unsure of how to start using the power of three? I have created a weekly planner that takes you step by step through this strategy. Simply click on the button below to download your copy.