Do you feel like you have 150 things that need to get done and only time to move one or two of them forward today?
So do I. Or at least, I did. Now I feel like I have time to move 7 or 8 forward. And that number has increased dramatically in recent weeks.
Some days, I get 10 or 15 things done and out of the way, and I’m surprised at how little it felt like I actually “worked” to get it all done.
Yesterday I surprised my wife by ticking off a list of 3 personal things that had needed to be resolved (mostly involving making calls), that I’d taken care of that day, that she didn’t have to think about (and neither do I, anymore). Considering how much ADHD could be used to describe my treatment of things like this in the past, this was a very pleasant surprise. And it’s getting far more common.
I’ve told you I’m on a productivity kick.
I’m installing and implementing David Allen’s Getting Things Done system as my personal productivity operating system.
But there’s something that I picked up just before that, on The Joy of Procrastination podcast, with Dean Jackson (of I Love Marketing and others) and Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach and others).
They were battling the same productivity challenges we all face. Too many things to do. Not enough time to do them. And things slipping through the cracks like crazy. Even really important things that should get done, and that wouldn’t take very much time to just get done and off your plate.
And so they created a simple rule…
Create a list of 3 high priority tasks you will get done today, no compromises…
I call it the “3 Inviolables” rule. Inviolable means “never to be broken, infringed, or dishonored.”
When I first started implementing this (before I came up with the inviolables term), I got all my items done most days. Then, I fell off the wagon, and only got 2 of 3 done one day. That’s fine, I put it back on the next day’s list, and redefined this list as inviolable.
So this past Monday rolls around, and I got 2 of 3 done during my normal workday. But I procrastinated on my weekly client check-up (that I wrote about yesterday). Well, I had a webinar for an Australian mastermind at 8 p.m. my time, and was tired after that.
But I remembered: these tasks are inviolable (especially that one, that keeps me accountable to the client).
And so despite my desire to procrastinate, I just forced myself to do it — to get it done. It was out of the way, plus I felt better afterward.
3 rules for your 3 inviolables…
- These should be a next action, with a verb and a noun.
It’s an easy habit to fall into to make our to-do list a bunch of names. For example, I could have just written “CLIENT XYZ” on my list. But that doesn’t mean anything, and it’s impossible to know if you’re done with it. Instead, I wrote “Send weekly check-in email to CLIENT XYZ.” It’s a discreet action that has a beginning and an end, so it can be checked off the list when it’s done.
- Make them small enough to get done in your day with plenty of time to spare.
You can’t make your 3 inviolables something that is going to take 10 hours to complete. Do that every day and you’ll burnout in a week, and not harness the full power of this approach. Ideally, each item should take less than an hour to complete, and probably only one of them should be that long.
And don’t let 3 become 10. You can have 10 things to do, and get 10 things done. That’s great. But every day prioritize the 3 inviolables you’ll get done, without compromise. Knock them out, and everything else you get done in the day is gravy.
- Make them something that will move you forward or address a procrastination or stuck point.
Here’s where this gets really valuable. We often spend a lot of time on things that are easy and urgent. We don’t tackle the hard things (especially things that are emotionally hard) and things that are important but not urgent. If most of your 3 inviolables push you forward on long-term goals or break you through a procrastination sticking point, you’ll feel better about these things every day.
Here’s what happens when you start to do this…
When you first begin this, you’ll be confronted with how much you need to do. Implement it for even the next week though, and suddenly you’ll feel on top of the world. When previously you noticed yourself procrastinating for huge chunks of the day and not getting much done besides one or two urgent things… Now you’ll be getting a ton more things done, and it will be on things that are far more gratifying than merely putting out fires.
This will free up your mental bandwidth to figure out how you can get everything that off-track back on, and really start to pursue some bigger ambitions that have been nagging at you but not getting attention recently.
I challenge you: apply the 3 inviolables rule for the next month.
I guarantee it will be your most productive month ever, and you will see huge breakthroughs.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,