First, let me give credit where credit is due. It was Melissa Camara Wilkins who first introduced me to the 3-Item To Do List.
I have used it ever since. And I’d love to recommend it to you.
For most of my life, I was the person with a mile long to-do list next to me at all times, often carrying over from day-to-day and week-to-week. But no longer.
For the past several months, I have been using a 3-Item To Do List exclusively—and I have found it to increase my productivity and work satisfaction significantly.
The 3-Item To Do List is as simple and profound as it sounds. At the beginning of each day, I take time to identify and articulate the three most important items for me to accomplish.
For example, my To Do List for today consists of these three items:
- Write a blog post for Becoming Minimalist
- Set agenda for our next Hope Effect Board of Directors’ Meeting
- Put final touches on an article pitch for a major publication
That’s it! Three items—all significant, all important, all entirely manageable.
Now, almost certainly, there are other work-related things I will do today: post to Facebook, answer e-mail, text a peer. But my three main identified projects will always take precedence.
The short list approach keeps me focused on the most important tasks I need to accomplish.
But I have found other benefits as well. The shorter list keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. The shorter list also helps me overcome procrastination—the finish line is always in sight.
Additionally, and equally important, the 3-Item List provides a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. This benefit is the main one that Melissa articulates—she even refers to it as an “Enough List.” When the list is completed, there is a sense of finality. She says it like this:
Now instead of ending each day feeling like I’ve fallen behind, I have a built-in sense of accomplishment in the evenings. I finished my three things! I did what mattered most!
The importance of identifying the three most important things to accomplish in a day is revolutionary regardless of where you apply it. It is a helpful productivity hack at work. It can be used equally well by a stay-at-home mom or dad. It can be uniquely tailored for a hobby or side-business.
In order to accomplish our most important tasks, it is essential to remain focused on them. The 3-Item To Do List accomplishes that and requires you to identify them anew each morning.