Let’s walk before we can run on the whole time management thing. For now, just pick three things that you need to get done, jot them down — and then do them tomorrow.

Post it note 2
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to implementing a new time management system from scratch (apart from having to wade through books aimed at middle management finance workers and sales reps) is that it’s such a huge task in itself that the prospect is enough to put you off before you even get started.

So let’s start slowly — by implementing one simple strategy that will make a huge dent in the chaos of your life: Do Three Things.

Do Three Things
Your brain is swimming with all the things you have to get done. But amongst all the pressing tasks that demand your attention — the release date looming, the gig next week, the flyers that need to be designed — there are three little things that if you just did them, you could claim to have had a successful day.

At this stage, let’s forget about all the detail — that will come later. For now — just three things that need to be done.

I’m not even talking about getting you to complete projects. I’m talking about choosing individual activities that will just take a little bit of time and energy to do. These will provide you with the satisfaction you’ll need at the end of a chaotic, unproductive day: “well, at least I did those three things”.

So — got them in your head?

Okay — now grab yourself a notebook, post-it note, scrap of paper or back of a cigarette packet, and scrawl them down.

Those are your 3 Main Things for tomorrow.

That’s right: not today, tomorrow.

The trick is to do jot them down sometime before you go to bed at the end of your day (whenever that might be), and then that becomes what you’ve committed yourself to getting done no matter what else happens the following day.

A few things happen when you do this:

  • Your brain gets to mull them over in your sleep and you’ll find you’re mentally prepared when you come to approach them the next morning.
  • No day is too overwhelming. As long as you do these three things, and everything else completely falls to bits, you’ll have had a good day.
  • Around these three big things, many of the smaller things tend to fit themselves, and you’ll notice you’re getting far more than just three things done.
  • Quite often, you’ll find you’ll get the three things done with hours to spare.
  • We’re looking for things you can comfortably accomplish in one focused sitting. An hour maximum is ideal — and certainly no more than 2 hours with a break in the middle. Less is better.

    The kind of things you’d write might include ‘properly tag the mp3s’ or ‘book a gig at the town hall’ or ‘have a meeting with Janine about the mastering’.

    ‘Record an album’, ‘Become famous’, ‘Get signed to a record label’ or ‘make a new website’ are not good things to write down.

    While it’s nice to have high hopes and big dreams, those things are not going to be a one-task one-sitting affair. They’re longer projects that will take time and a series of connected steps. Way too complicated at this stage of the game.

    But if you do want to record an album, you might want to write ‘book studio’ or ‘work out a recording budget’. Those are fine. Break it down into bite-size pieces.

    It can even be stuff you already have locked down in your diary that you’d do whether or not it was on a piece of paper or in your notebook.

    It’s okay to cheat at this. In fact, it’s best to.

    If you’ve got a meeting booked at 11am tomorrow, then that meeting must be one of the three things on the list.

    This is not the secret to time management ninja status. It’s a blunt instrument rather than a precision tool — but it’s a simple and huge step in the right direction.

    You’ll be amazed at just how much better this 2-minute activity makes your whole life. If you do nothing else to get your creative, chaotic life into a bit more of a manageable state, just do this.

    Next: getting a handle on all the other stuff.