The legend tells of a wise consultant who was hired by a prominent CEO. The CEO asked the consultant what advice he would give to help him be more productive in the areas of life that mattered. The consultant thought and said, “Do this one thing. Each day, write down the most important thing you need to do that day. Then, list your second and your third most important need. Then do those three things.” The CEO impatiently asked, what else should he do? The consultant answered, “Just do those three, in order.” Frustrated at the consultant’s simplistic idea, the CEO thanked the wise consultant and asked how much his bill was since the appointment had only lasted five minutes. The consultant answered, “Do what I have said and in thirty days, pay me whatever you think my advice was worth.” Thirty days later the wise consultant received a check from the impatient CEO for $25,000.

Recently, I have sought to put into practice the advice of that story that I heard years ago. It has amazed me how this one practice has changed the way I operate each day. The simplicity of the idea has brought focus and clarity.

If for the next year, you and I do the top three most important things we need to do each day, we will accomplish over 1,000 essential tasks.

I have found this concept surprisingly hard to do. I think of myself as a reasonably focused person, and yet, coming up with the one most important thing for today, and then the second and third, is difficult. The very difficulty of the task has shown me how much I need the clarity.

Here is how I am putting this into practice. Feel free to adapt it in whatever way works for you:

• Each month, I list the priorities I want to accomplish for the month. Then, I take that list and identify the top three priorities, in order, for the month.
• Each week, while keeping in mind my priorities for the month, I list my priorities for the week. Then, I identify the top three priorities, in order, for the week.
• Each day, while reviewing my weekly and monthly priorities, I begin by identifying the top three priorities for the day, in order. I work to do my top three priorities. Anything I accomplish beyond those priorities is gravy.
• Remind yourself each day to choose your top three priorities and review your weekly and monthly priorities. I have a digital planner that creates recurring things to do to help remind me. Sticky notes could accomplish the same purpose.

You may think this idea is simplistic. I certainly did for a long time. But try it for a week or two and see if it helps you do more of what is important to you with less stress.

Are you brave enough to give it a try?

Let me know what you think of the idea?

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