Book ClubMission

When Lawyers Should Focus on The Three Things

I love any habit that increases my productivity – especially one that’s simple and easy to implement. The other day I heard one that seemed to be just that: The Three Things. (I’m not sure if that’s the formal name, but it’s how I remember it, so let’s go with it.)

The concept centers around one simple question: What are the three things you must get done today?

Look at your to-do list. Is it as long as mine is sometimes? Is it overwhelming and you don’t know where to start? If you’re like me, you start with the minor, tick-tac things because they are generally easy to knock out. Send that follow-up email; set up the new matter; update the document template.

But even when I’ve checked off a handful of those smaller, less impactful tasks, I feel like I’m still treading water. My to-do list has become smaller in quantity but not quality. And that’s because I haven’t made any real progress. I haven’t yet tackled what I need to do. Write the motion; respond to opposing counsel’s three-page, less-than-pleasant email; outline witness testimony for a hearing.

While there are a number of reasons we procrastinate on the meatier tasks, using The Three Things tool to identify those productivity-boosting tasks is a good place to start. For the last few weeks, the very first thing I’ve done in the morning is review my to-do list and highlight The Three Things I need to get done that day. I mark them with a tag or high-priority designation so they stand out, and then I get to work. Sure – sometimes I need a little momentum to get going, and I’ll knock out a few smaller things to get into a groove. I don’t, however, let more than thirty minutes go by before tackling The Three Things. Most days, I jump right in and check off The Three Things first. I’m amazed at how making such a small change to identify and tackle The Three Things has transformed what I accomplish.

Although they tend to take more effort and cause more wear, getting The Three Things done first is a huge win for productivity. Often times, when I check off the last of The Three Things, I feel like I’m more than 80% of the way there. With the wind at my back, getting the rest of the list done is no sweat. Plus, as an added bonus, I don’t stress if there are still some items left on my to-do list at the end of the day because I know the most important, productive tasks – The Three Things – are already done. Check!

What Three Things do you need to do today? Can you mark and attack them first?