Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Big 3
A long time ago, I read a book called, Write it Down, Make it Happen! I'm sorry to say that I don't remember the specifics of the book, but I credit it with my belief in the concept that writing down a goal makes it more likely you'll accomplish it. Research agrees as well. Not only do we do a better job of meeting our goals when we write them down, but we're also more successful at doing so when we go public.

Although I do a good job of writing down my long-term goals, I'm not as good with short-term goals, and, when it comes to daily goals, I tend to overestimate what I can accomplish. Then, I get overwhelmed, and stop writing things down altogether. 

Sometimes, structured procrastination saves the day and I accomplish stuff, even though it wasn't what I thought I'd accomplish when the day began, and sometimes, I'm satisfied with that. But other times, perfectionism takes over and I become annoyed with myself for not doing that perfect thing -- you know, the one I was supposed to be doing in the first place.

Last week, I decided to try a new approach that I'm calling my "Big 3." I can't take credit for this, but, unfortunately, I can't give credit, either, as I know I've read something similar in multiple places. I've seen various numbers bandied about, ranging from writing down just one thing (the most important thing) you want to get done on up to other magical numbers, but I've settled on three. If I write down just one, perfectionism overtakes me; I feel as though it must be done in its entirety (and to perfection) by the end of the day. In addition, checking only one thing off my list seems insufficient.  

Much too much pressure for something that's supposed to be working in my service.

Big 3 became a plan quite by accident. One day last week, I was feeling scattered, and I thought writing down three things I wanted to get done before the end of the day would help me focus. I did this late in the day, when I felt as though the remaining hours were slipping away, and I wanted to harness some productivity.

And it worked.

So I did it again.

And it worked again. 

Even better, I felt a release of pressure. Instead of my relentless to-do list nagging at me, I was taking charge of it. Showing it who was boss and doing away with the "shoulds."

With three things on my list, I'm okay with not getting them all done to completion, let alone perfection. Simply spending some time on all three leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment. And, if it turns out that I can squeeze in a few more things, that's good, too. In fact, I tend to plan the rest of the tasks I tackle around my Big 3, which leads to a more productive day, even when all of the Big 3 aren't fully completed by day's end.

I'm still playing with timing. Now, I tend to set my Big 3 at the beginning of the day, but I suspect that when things get busy, I might also readjust later in the day to try to use the early evening hours more efficiently. 

You might prefer a different number. You might like writing down the most important thing, and planning the day around it. You might like focusing on just two things -- one for early in the day and one for later in the day.

Whatever you end up with, remember to be realistic. Writing focused goals doesn't add more hours to the day or more spring to your step. If you're not in the mood to put something on the top of the list today and it doesn't have an immediate deadline, save it for tomorrow. 

Finally, don't forget to put the fun stuff on your list from time to time. I have a stack of to-be-read books that never seems to shrink because I don't make reading a priority. Yesterday, I listed reading as one of my Big 3, giving me an excuse to walk right past other tasks so I could curl up with my book. 

And check it off my list.

Dominican University of California

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