I'm a bit of an obsessive optimizer. I'm always studying to see if there's a way to do something better. I tried for a bit that whole GTD system and even shelled out for Omnifocus software to help. I made my physical inbox and bought my labeller for the files and, well, you get the idea. But the more complex it got, the more my enthusiasm faded. And I looked for something, well, simpler. And I found it.
What I have found works a hundred thousand times better for me is the "three things" method. It has succeeded in clearing away piles of assignments like nothing else I've ever tried. How does it work? At its base level it’s just this: deciding the evening before what three things you will accomplish on the morrow.
I find that it works best if the top of the list is given to the thing I've been dreading or procrastinating on the most. Bust through that and the other two usually are that much easier to accomplish.
I don't include the stuff that I have to do every day (it would be cheating, for instance, for me to include: “Do Thy Strong Word radio show.”). The three things are not so much meetings or appointments that need doing, but TASKS that are in my bailiwick. Dare I say “chores”?
I’ll use today's example: first thing was contact a banner artist about a bid for some banners for the IC Chapel. I'd tried to make contact in the past, but we'd played phone tag. Today we made contact, determined next steps, and I dispatched my obligations in the next steps rather simply. Took some pictures, thought of some hymns, and shipped out an email to her. Cross that off till I hear back from her. Then I had wanted to study St. Thomas Aquinas' commentary on the chapter of Job that would be discussed in today's Thy Strong Word. Did that—he's pretty amazing—and assembled a few notes to use. Last but not least, Pr. Vieker had helpfully suggested compiling a number of prayers for the sick and for missionaries that we could offer our pastors to use during our regular chapels rather than the same set three or four prayers from the Altar Book each time. This took the most time today, but I did that, printed out a couple copies, emailed them to Deaconess Bowers who distributed to those who assist in chapel. And there it was. Three things I wanted to get done today. Three things that got done today. And now I'm in “what's up for tomorrow?” mode.
Oh, and if I think of a task during the day, but that's not on my three? I have a general page in my Reminders app that just keeps a list of tasks I need to or want to do. There's no ranking, no prioritizing. It's just a storage box to remember what I need to get done. I put anything that occurs to me in there, along with any new assignments that come my way, and then promptly stop worrying about them. Each evening, that list is the first place I examine to determine what I'll put on my Three Things list for the next day.
Part of the genius of three things is that it keeps me from feeling snowed under. I have just three things to get done today. I try to give them my all. I block out interruptions. I try to get them done in a way that I am proud of what I've done. At first, whenever I finished my three things, I'd immediately turn to the list to see what else I could knock off. But the longer I've lived with and learned to trust the simplicity of the system, the less inclined I am to do that. Instead, I give myself permission to relax a bit: read, ponder, learn something new, catch up on email, journal, go for a walk, visit with folks (that's part of my job too!), think. After all, by week's end, God willing, there will be 15 items knocked off that list even just doing three per day.
I hope all that makes some sense. It's been a life changer for me. Easy enough to keep track of and simple to maintain. Do any of you guys follow something similar?
P.S. I do keep separate three things list for personal and for work. My personal list is weekly rather than daily, and leans toward weekend warrior type stuff.