This is a nice tip that I picked up from the Zen Habits
blog. One problem a lot of people have with implementing Getting Things Done
is that having captured all the open loops, desires, tasks and projects in their life, they are faced with a bewilderingly large to-do list. As quoted in The Book:
I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I want to do, but I don't know where to begin.
— Stephen Bayne
Leo Babauta suggests that you start each day by picking your three Most Important Things
from your list, and making those your top priority. This actually really helps, and by concentrating on a smaller set of tasks, you're more likely to complete one of them. It also reduces the temptation to cringe
and slide off to some other easier job.
GTD is often thought of as a tactical system for dealing with day-to-day tasks, but David Allen makes it quite clear that there is no point in doing lots of actions that don't get you anywhere. The idea is that once all of the daily urgent-but-trivial stuff is off your mind and onto paper, it gives you psychic breathing space to think about your higher-level goals in life. If you want to achieve something that takes six months, that means a long sustained focus on achieving lots of little steps towards it, with one eye on the ultimate purpose. Again quoted in The Book:
You've got to think about the big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.
— Alvin Toffler
I use the same prime-focus trick with my projects; at any one time, I have three Most Important Projects. Every day, at least one of my Most Important Tasks is aimed towards completing one of them. It makes it a lot easier to decide the MITs for the day: just look at your three projects-in-focus and identify the three corresponding next actions.
It might sound over-complicated if you're not a GTDer - isn't this pretty much what most people do anyway? Yes and no, because if you keep everything in your head, the three things most on your mind will be the loudest-shouting: "REMEMBER ME! REMEMBER ME! REMEMBER ME!" and not necessarily the most strategically important. Clearing everything out onto paper - at a minimum, just one big sheet of paper - gives you a helicopter view of what's going on, and helps you decide what's really
important, and not just urgent.