Choosing the 3 Most Important Tasks for the Day

Aug 8, 2014
Joe Buhlig
~2 mins

I’m terrible at estimating time. I always think that I can complete more than I truly can. I throw 8 things on a list for the day and go. I can complete them all… or not. If I’m honest with myself, I know that I can’t do it all.

I used to wake up in the morning and do my normal morning ritual. Part of that routine was to go through my to-do lists and choose tasks for that day. It was a good feeling to know I had prepared a list of actions for the day - my Today List.

My Struggle

At the end of the day, when I would start to wrap things up, I would realize I still had items on my list. Not a big deal. I’d just move them to tomorrow’s list.

But it would happen again. And again. And again. Once in a while I would finish it but most of the time the cycle repeated. It didn’t matter if I had a productive day or not. As long as I had items on that list at the end, it felt like I had lost. I didn’t do enough. I failed.

I tried to find productivity tricks to help me accomplish more during the day, but it never worked. The cycle continued.

3 MITs

Thankfully, I ran across an article by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. It was about picking your 3 MITs or Most Important Tasks for the day. It’s a simple concept. Choose 3 things that you want to complete that day and focus on those. If you do nothing else all day, you still completed the most important things you needed to do.

I was a bit hesitant at first. I had more than 3 things I needed to do each day. But when I started to look at my list, I realized I had a lot of wants along with needs on it. I decided to try it and saw results on day one. I quickly finished my 3 MITs and realized that I had a productive day behind me and it was only 10am. It was energizing.

The Head Game

I learned that it was a head game. It’s the difference between achieving your goal and failing to hit it. If you set a realistic goal and hit it, you’re motivated to keep moving. If you set an optimistic goal and miss it, you’re disheartened and want to quit.

I’m not perfect with the process. I still find that I want to pick 4 or 5 items for the day, but if I stop long enough to think about each one I can usually find one or two that are nice-to-haves and pull them.

Bonus

There seems to be this awesome side-effect of accomplishing more each day. When I know that I’ve already had a productive day by 10am, it makes me want to keep going and knock a lot of things out.