Just a little blog about me and mine.

3 Things April 3, 2009

Filed under: work life — Katie @ 11:55 am

Just 3 Things. That’s all I’m trying to get done each day this week. Well 6 actually, 3 at work and 3 at home. I’ve been having some, um, productivity problems at work and also having a hard time staying ahead of the curve on keeping the house clean.

I have two major work projects that have been moved from December, to January, then to February, and March…you get the point. They really need to get done now. It’s not a crisis that they haven’t been done yet but they are actually things that are really important to do. And it is a crisis if they don’t ever get done. There’s always a bigger, more urgent or more important project to do, so I’ve been able to justify ignoring these tasks since I had so much else to do. But I’m slowly getting caught up on other stuff, and it’s a now a slower part of the year for me, so I’m out of time to procrastinate on these anymore.

On the home front: Our dogs shed a lot and we have the world’s fluffiest cat. Plus we eat most of our meals at home and cook a lot so that makes a lot of dirty dishes. We also create a lot of dirty laundry–I do have to confess that I seem to wear 2 times as many shirts as PL in any given week and I don’t know how. It’s also now yard work season and our yard is looking like a jungle while the elderly neighbors’ yards all look neat and clean.

I occasionally read a few blogs on productivity and getting things done. The GTD (Getting Things Done) system is too involved for me, but I think it’s a great system for those who need a little more structure. I have a good memory and always keep one master list of all of my work projects (whether or not I do them, I still have the list), so I haven’t really needed to totally overhaul my entire to-do system. I do benefit from breaking up big projects into actual tasks to go on my to-do list, but GTD is just more detail than I need. I do most of that mentally and have a good memory–I just need a little occasional help to get re-organized and motivated.

That brings me to 3 Things. Just do 3 Things every day. But make them count. I’ve read about this a few times before, and love that it’s called Lazy Productivity.

Here’s how it works: Make a list of 3 things to do at the end of the day, and then then do those 3 things the next day. (I still need to work on the day before part so I won’t wake up worried about forgetting something I need to do.) Try to do the first task when you get to work in the morning, before email or other small things get in the way. Others suggest actually having a list of 4 things: one thing you are proscrastinating doing by doing the other 3 things instead.

I find that doing one thing first thing in the morning creates a lot of momentum to keep working–it really does feel better to get something done than it does to spend an hour or more in the morning wasting time but worrying about how much you need to get done. I know that’s one of my biggest problems. I get to work, check email, read some news, and then can’t quite get started on work. And I look at my list of a dozen or so things to do and know I can’t get it all done. So I read some more things online. Having something that needs to get done first thing in the morning helps me avoid that vicious cycle of getting a slow start to the day.

Yesterday, I got rolling on my 3 things as soon as I got to the office. I finished 2 of my 3 things before lunch, and then spent most of the afternoon on my 3rd thing which was a little more time consuming. Then I was done. And I gave myself permission to take a little break. After that, I felt so good about finally getting those 3 things done that I spent a few minutes working on some smaller projects.

I tried the same thing at home. I didn’t write this part down, but when I got home from work I wanted to do three things.
1. Vacuum (the dogs were at daycare and therefore not actively creating more hair faster than I could clean it).
2. Do the dishes before we cooked dinner and made even more dirty ones.
3. Put some work stuff that’s been sitting in our living room for 3 weeks in my car to take back and store there instead of walking around it each day.

When I got home from work, I immediately put the seats in my car down and put the work stuff in there. Then I vacuumed. I was done with all of this in 30-40 minutes and took a break to play online and read magazines before PL and the dogs got home. We had dinner, watched the Rachel Maddow Show Podcast, and then I did the dishes. I did my 3 Things, the house looks great, and I still got to spend several hours doing whatever I wanted.

I also like this system because it makes a big work-load seem managable. We all have many more than 3 things to do at work or home, so you might be thinking that this system isn’t actually all that practical for getting things done. But I know that when I feel like I have a ton of things to do, I get overwhelmed by how big all of the projects seem and then don’t really manage to do anything. Not even one. So really, three is much better than zero.


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