Three things. There seems to be something magical about three things – at least when it comes to getting things done.

Like many people, I make daily To-Do lists, and I have a love/hate relationship with them. They help me plan and organize my day, but they often seem like an albatross around my neck, weighing me down with too much to do, not enough time to do it, and the guilt and frustration of not getting everything on my list done by the end of the day.

It’s not supposed to work that way.

There’s certainly no lack of information or advice on how to use To-Do lists effectively. I’ve read articles and blogs with titles like, “Getting the Most Out of Your To-Do List,” or “What to Do – and Not to Do – With Your To-Do Lists” and “How to Go from ‘To-Do’ to ‘Ta-Da!’ in One Week.”

I’ve tried and discarded many suggestions about using To-Do lists effectively and productively, because they didn’t really help, and they often added one more layer of work to do, without helping me get anything from “to do” to “done.” But a number of ideas have actually been useful and practical, and they all seem to focus on the number three.

An author and speaker I know, who specializes in helping small businesses grow, instructs people to start each day by writing down three things they’re going to do that day to grow their business. It doesn’t matter whether they’re small steps or giant leaps. The idea is to consistently write down and accomplish three specific business goals every day.

A friend of mine once gave me a sign to post on my bulletin board that said, “I’ll feel good about leaving work today when I have accomplished the following three things:” The words formed a large circle, with room in the middle to fit a post-it note on which I could write down three things every day. This was before we lived in a 24/7 world, where the lines have blurred between work and home, or between work and leisure. But the idea is still sound.

A coaching client of mine once told me that every morning when she started work, she wrote down, “Three things I don’t feel like doing,” and concentrated on getting them done first. These were things she needed to do, but had been pushing aside and neglecting. By focusing on them right away, she could get them out of the way and move on to other tasks with a sense of accomplishment, and an easier and more enjoyable time for the rest of the day.

My favorite advice was to set three daily goals, one personal, one professional, and one to help others.

By limiting our lists to just three things at a time, we can make sure we get the most important things done first. Then we can go on to three more, and three more after that. Before long, we may find we’ve gotten through our entire list after all, three items at a time.

Just like magic!

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on March 19, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

Do you have any “three things” tips or tricks that help you achieve your daily goals? I’d love to hear them! Please be aware that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog, in order to protect all of us from unwanted spam.