This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
We tend to overestimate how much work we can do in a short period of time. We believe we can cram more work into a short period by writing it down on a daily to-do list of some kind, only to be disappointed by how few of these outcomes we actually obtain.
If we greatly overestimate what we can do in a short period of time, we greatly underestimate what we can do in a longer period of time. While we are too ambitious when it comes to what we can do in a day, we aren’t ambitious enough to what we can do in a quarter (Or a year. Or a decade. Or a lifetime.)
There is some magic in the number three. It’s not few when it comes to goals, and it’s not too many.
Start by choosing the three biggest outcomes (goals) you need to achieve in a calendar year. Choosing more outcomes doesn’t make you more effective, it only makes you more distracted and unfocused. We’ll call these your major outcomes (or goals).
What are the three major outcomes (goals) you need to achieve right now?
Next, make a list of the three outcomes you need for each of your major outcomes for each quarter of the year. You can’t achieve your major outcomes without reaching these quarterly milestones along the way.
Because your major outcomes are so far away, you may be tempted to put off working on them. These quarterly milestones giving you a shorter-term target on which to focus.
- Major Outcome
A). Quarterly Milestone 1
B). Quarterly Milestone 2
C). Quarterly Milestone 3
You don’t need to plan all four quarters. In fact, if you are worried about the perfect plan, your probably really just avoiding the real work you need to do (in which case, you may want to go read Steven Pressfield before you go any further). These three quarterly milestones are enough to plan an effective week around.
You can’t do everything you want to in a single day. But you can do good quality work on enough of your outcomes to be super-productive.
Completing three tasks that move you closer towards your major goals each day is serious progress. By choosing three tasks that move you closer to your goals each day, you aren’t overwhelmed or distracted. You’ve also left some margin for the stuff that life throws at you.
If you get nothing done in the day but the three most important tasks, you’ve still made major progress on your most important goals.
Don’t worry about not having enough goals. As you complete each of your three major outcomes, you can replace them with new goals.
What’s on your big three list? What should be there?
How much time do you really devote to the biggest outcomes you want out of life?
Does your calendar contain the appointments you’ve made with yourself so you have the appropriate time blocked to wok on your big three?
How much is too much?