3 Things


I have a lot of hobbies, interests and activities that keep my evenings busy and full, and that’s after my everyday commitments like work, keeping up with the house, etc. When 8 hours of the day (at least) is spent at work, that leaves very little time to do all the other things I would love to do. To make the most of the time, I write lists. I write lists to remember what I need to do, to help Phil remember what he needs to do, to set goals and to cross things off. But as I was reviewing each of my mantras for the year*, trying to come up with action-items for each one, I was reminded of how wise I was in picking this mantra:

“I can do anything, but not everything.”

I am reminded of this every time I review my to-do list at the end of the day and see all of the items that did not get crossed off. Even if I crossed off 10 things, it doesn’t feel as good  because there are still 12 things left on the list that didn’t get done. So to get back on track with my mantra, I decided to commit to just 3 things that I will accomplish each evening in the few hours of personal time I have. If I accomplish more than that, great, but that’s extra, or lagniappe as we learned in New Orleans.


The 3 things can be anything as long as they make me feel accomplished at the end of the day. I’ve decided to keep these separate from my normal routine of cooking dinner, feeding the cats, packing my lunch, etc. I do those things anyway, so it’s not really a stretch to try to cross them off a list. What might be on a “3 Things” list? Here’s what I’m thinking…

  • Simple tasks like water the plants, wash one load of laundry, pay the utility bill, write that email
  • Goal-oriented tasks like draft/publish a blog post, practice the piano for a half hour, or make progress on a 30 before 30 item
  • Indulgent tasks like read 20 pages of a book, knit, or write a letter to a friend
  • Cleaning/Organizing tasks like wipe down the refrigerator, file the paperwork that’s piled up, reduce my inbox by 50 emails
  • Long-term projects broken out into manageable tasks that can be tackled over the course of the week.

I’ve started keeping a small hand-sized notebook in my purse so I can jot down my three things throughout the day whenever they come to me. Then when I get home I already know what I want to accomplish and I usually try to do those things first so I can relax later. In the last 2 weeks since I’ve started keeping track of my 3 things, I’ve felt more calm in the evenings and I don’t feel guilty for indulging in some tv because I’ve accomplished, at a minimum, what I set out to accomplish for that day. And I can look back over the last 2 weeks in my notebook and see how much I really do. 3 things a day, 5 days a week (I’m tracking work week only), that’s 15 things each week!

Does anyone else have massive to-do lists that always carry over from day to day? Have you ever thought about making them more manageable by prioritizing? I’d love to hear what other strategies are out there.

*So far I’ve reviewed my “Live Simply” mantra. Check it out here.


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