Three Small Things A Day

I’ve been on and off the productivity wagon for a while now. Sometimes I’m on, sometimes… well, sometimes I’m off.  I used to think there was some secret to being productive.

There isn’t, but it took me 10 years to realize it.

Along the way, I’ve tried Getting Things Done (think of it like a colon cleanse for your workload —  It hurts while doing it, but you feel great after), I’ve tried Todo lists, I’ve tried the carrot approach (work for 45 minutes, get to take a 15 minute gaming break); I’ve even tried the “Tell my wife what I’m doing so she can heckle me if I don’t get it done” approach.

All of these aren’t secrets to being productive; they are ways to trick my mind into working.  That would work, except that my mind is more stubborn than I am.

One thing has stood out, and I have Jeff Atwood to thank for it:

What three things do you need to do today?

You should be able to instantly answer this simple question, each day, every day, for the rest of your life. Without any tools other than the brain you were born with.

If you don’t have this skill, develop it. Practice, starting today. Right now.

What are you doing right now? Is it going to somehow result in one of those three things getting done today? Will this you get you to where you need to be by the end of the day?

The “Three Things” trick has helped me focus only on what I need to do right now.  Scott Hanselman calls it The Rule of Three, but it’s the same thing:


Paint House is too big and too stressful for a single item on your TODO list. Break it up like Select Color, find Paint Store, Buy Paint, etc. Focus on the Rule of Three. Three Successes for the day, for the week, for the month, for the year. Have a Vision for your week on Monday and Reflect on that Vision on Friday. Find a small thing that you can do in a small amount of time and do it. Accomplish something small, anything and that will buoy you forward to the next thing.

I may not be productive all the time, but I can accomplish three things per day… Maybe that’s the same thing?

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