Friday, January 14, 2011

The 3-item to-do list and being less responsible

Since I stepped back into my regular life after retreat, I've been trying out the idea of the 3-item to-do list. A friend is also doing it and each morning we email each other with items on our list. Yesterday, mine looked like this:

Work: Send off an estimate on the ringmaster edit project
           Do at least one newsletter intro for Greg
           Teach my writing group in the evening

Self-care: Gym, grocery shopping, lunch with Scot

While I maintain both a written and mental master list of many more things, choosing only 3 to be responsible for each day is a huge relief. It's, of course, a way of priotizing--focusing on what is most urgent or time-sensitive or politically important. It also keeps me focused. Other things that call for my attention (an inquiry from a prospective client, a tax issue, the arrival of a big project) must wait their turn as I've already made a commitment of my time.

Another benefit is that I consciously set boundaries around the amount of time I am going to work on a particular day. The group in the evening would take about 3.5 hours to prep and teach. The sample edit and estimate would take 30 minutes. The newsletter intro for Greg was a bit tougher to estimate but I'd done some before in about 90 minutes. So I was committing 5.5 hours to my work day.

Before, I would seen my work day "assignment" as getting as much done as possible for Greg (there are 8 pieces to write and they all would have been looming there over me), working as long as I could tolerate (most of the day), then teaching my course. I would have seen the lunch with Scot and grocery shopping as interruptions rather than me taking care of myself.

This new practice is helping me feel less responsible for everything I have to do. Each day I am responsible for a reasonable amount, that I set myself and commit to via email. It feels much more spacious.


LC said...

Thanks for sharing this. Uncompleted projects and tasks loom, even in retirement; and I have difficulty making time for things I want to do just because I want to do them. The 3 "work" and 3 "self-care" create realistic priority lists. My "listing" priorities usually winds up as brainstorming and not anywhere near possible to complete in the time allowed. Thanks for a tip i am going to employ.

LC said...

I am now refining my wording on the list of 3 work and 3 self-help. my first day, one of my work items was locating an important document. Bummer, only 3 things to do and I did not get the third one done. So it will go back on my list for another day as "Look for the important document." OK, that may be cheating, but I still get to check it off, even if I don't find it. So what if I never find it. I'll list searching for a way to replace important document as one of three on another day!