Just Three Things on Your To Do List

Yesterday I asked you to choose just one area of your life to focus on.  Now, that doesn’t mean we are going to ignore the other areas of our lives.  The simple truth is that we have to start somewhere, and we’re going to get the best out of this challenge by focusing on one main area at a time.  

This will allow us time to focus and hone in on our top priorities in this area.  Help us get a handle on this one area and carve out one zone where we can go and not feel scattered.  By the end of this month, I want you to be able to approach your focus area feeling confident and happy about the progress you’ve made.  That feeling will help you tackle your other areas – one step at a time!  

Today I’m going to share with you the magic of the three-item to-do list and show you how it will help you get control of one area while still leaving you the time for others.

Welcome to day three of the From Scattered to Sane series.

Choosing just three tasks to worry about it is a great way to set yourself up for success

When it comes to creating to-do lists and building routines it seems like every guru and expert have their own ideas of how that is best done.  That is because they have all found a way or created a system that works for them.  Today I’m going to share with you a system that has been working well for me for many years.

I have no real name for it, though I do often refer to it as my Magic Three plan or formula.  No matter how crazy life gets, this system has been helping to keep me on track for a number of years now.  It allows me to bounce back from scattered and overwhelmed times and it is the foundation for all the other systems in my home.  And now, I’m sharing it with you.

Just Three Things on Your To Do List

I use the three things rule or formula in many different ways in my time management systems.  If you’ve used the daily or weekly to-do list planner pages, you’ve seen the “My Top Three” sections.  

When it comes to to-do lists, I really like the number three.

Why three?

I like three because it is a big enough number that it leaves you feeling productive and like you’ve accomplished something, (you have – three somethings to be exact) but it is also small enough not to be overwhelming.   When you look at a list of only three items, it is not overwhelming or daunting: it’s easily doable.  How we feel when we look at our to-do lists plays just as big a role in our ability to cross those items off, as the amount of time we have to do them in.

Today’s step is to take a look at the area of our lives we want to focus on and make a list of all the things we need to do DAILY in this area.  Take a few minutes to jot those down.  

Now that you have that list in front of you, I want you to take a good look at it and choose the three most important things on it.  The three things that you need to do each day to keep that area of your life running smoothly.  

Remember, this is just step two. Think about it this way – if life went sideways on you tomorrow and you had to switch from normal, everyday routines into survival mode, what three things would you need each day (these are DAILY items) to do in your focus area to keep it running at a minimum.

Just Three Things Worksheet Printable

If you’re having a hard time deciding what you should choose for your top three, refer back to yesterday’s worksheet and read through your answers.  Use what is already working well for you to eliminate some items from your long to-do list.  Use what you wrote down under what isn’t working for you to help you zero in on things you need to change or work on.  Take your time, this is not a race.  When you’ve got your three, scroll on down to see what happens next.

Got’em? Great!  Click the pic down below to grab your copy of today’s worksheet and let’s jump to the fun part.

Daily Activity Tracker Worksheet Printable

Ok, maybe fun isn’t the right word, but we’re moving forward.  Today we’re getting ready to move forward tomorrow.  (especially since I’m getting such a late start at this today)

Fill out the top row of the form with your three items only to-do list.  I left room for other daily tasks you might want to add that aren’t in your focus area for those of you who need or want to focus on more.  

My Top Three Things

My focus area is my Home area.  It’s the area that is first to start suffering when life starts getting crazy.  And let me tell you, my little world got sent rocking recently and my home is certainly reflecting that.  It would be one thing if I was the only one who had to live here, but I have to think about my family as well. They deserve a calm and peaceful refuge (and yes, I do too) so Home is where my focus is for this challenge.

After taking a good long look around at what is and isn’t working on the home front, as well as taking some of my personal standards into the equation I came up with the following three-item to-do list.

  • dinner clean up – this means dishwasher loaded and run, excess dishes washed, dried and put away, surfaces and sink cleaned, and the dining room straightened up.  Even if I don’t touch a single dish all day long, this clean up time will get done EVERY DAY!  And yes, I’m getting my family involved with the process.
  • general tidy up downstairs – this is a starting point. One day it will be downstairs and upstairs, but baby steps will get me further than biting off more than I can chew. If I get the family to help each evening we can have the whole downstairs tidied up in under five minutes
  • quick clean bathroom – with two and a half baths this is something that I need to do.  My plan is tackle one per day and rotate through them.

That is it!  If I do nothing else for my home each day, I will do these three items.  More than that, if I only complete these three items each day I will consider my day a success.  You know why?  Because we’re just getting started, and we can’t do it all at once.

How I Filled Mine Out

Fill out the top row of the form with your three items.

Each row below represents a day of the month.  Skip the first three days on this form.  I designed it so you can use it as often as you want.  Be sure to mark off your tasks when you complete them.

Example of how I'm using the Daily Activity Tracker

As you can see above I’m using words.  Especially for the bathrooms, that way I just have to look at the sheet to see which one is next.  I’m putting my sheet on my fridge and a copy in my planner.  It may seem redundant but that way I’m seeing reminders all the time.

Now I know that some of you are going to want to work on more than one area. Others might want to just focus on certain tasks that they need to do daily and forget about focusing on one area at a time.  That’s ok.  I’m a big believer in doing what works best for you.  You know yourself best.  For those that might want to put their own spin on things, I also made a similar worksheet for you.

Important Daily Tasks Work Sheet

As always to get a copy of one of our printables for yourself, just simply click the pic of the one or ones you want.

So think about this tonight and try to get started tomorrow if you’re feeling up to it.  I’m not going to start bombarding with a whole bunch of steps all at once.  Take a few days to find your groove with your Just Three Things to-do list.  

Coming Up

Tomorrow I’m going to share a little more about why this system has worked so well for me, and the benefits of building foundation routines like this one.  Truthfully, I would be lost without mine. I think it’s really important that we all build our own foundation in our own way.

 If my way helps you get started, if it gives you an idea to create your own, or hey, if it works for you as is – it’s all great!  The point is to take the time to build them right.  I want to make sure I’m giving you the time to let them settle before we jump to the next step.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have more fun stuff in store.  There are other things we can be doing. Quick little projects and maybe a few new planner printables to check out between now and the next step, so please don’t feel too rushed.  

Take your time to find your three items, and focus on getting those done each day!

I’ll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff.  In the meantime, drop me a line in the comments and let me know what your three things are.  I’d love to hear from you.

When starting a new routine or trying to get back on track, set yourself up for success by starting with just three tasks

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  1. Nora (@morphidae23) says:

    I’m morbidly obese, homebound, with an eating disorder. I chose losing weight as my focus. My three things are remaining binge-free, drinking water, and doing chair exercises. These are most likely very different than what the typical planner has on their schedule but it’s what I need to help. It’s not so much I have so much to do as I’m fighting severe depression and anxiety and I need the structure to help get me through the day. If I don’t, I end up escaping into a book or iPad all day. I need to feel more accomplished.

    1. Nora, I love how you are taking this challenge and making it work for you and using the planner to make your life better. That is one of the best things you could do. I’m so sorry to hear that you struggling with depression and anxiety, I know it’s a hard road. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way!

    2. Nora,
      I know its been like 3 years since your comment but time doesn’t matter when we are dealing with issues such as these. I’m a single mother who is also severely obese, with a depression that goes straight through the floor. I also have an extremely rare chronic pain disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It basically feels like my entire body is on fire 24/7/365. It is the most painful disease on the planet; there is no cure and treatments don’t really do much. Some days it’s darn near impossible to just get out of bed. Let alone do anything for myself or my family. I hope that time has helped you and that it will also help others that are going through these horribly crippling things. Lately, I have been forcing myself to accomplish one thing (at least) everyday. Even if its something as simple as checking my email. Those little things will gradually add up to big things and, ultimately, help me feel better. I’m hoping this system will help me to focus on those areas of my life that need the most attention. Although, right now, it seems that EVERY part of my life needs help. I just have to keep reminding myself… Baby steps! Best wishes and positive thoughts!

      1. ScatteredSquirrel says:

        Hi Heather, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear that you are travelling such a hard road. I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like for you. I love that you are trying to do one thing each day, baby steps are still progress and progress is success. I hope you celebrate your wins often. I hope that they find a cure for your disease soon. Sending you lots of positive thoughts.

  2. Hi Alli,
    I have just recently come across your website and wanted to share with you that I think it is fantastic. You are an inspiration and I love all your printables. I am a busy mum of three with my youngest being a 7 month old. I have found your printables to be so helpful and have them on my corkboard in my study. I love your approach of baby steps and always coming back to the basics. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    1. Hi Karen, welcome!!! I’m happy you found us. I’m thrilled to hear that you’re finding some printables and some posts that are helpful for you. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a nice comment.

  3. Hello Alli.
    I am a single mom of 2 and the area I need to focus on most is my home. I currently have 2 part-time jobs that I do from my home. I have stumbled across your website in my search to find the perfect planning system to fit my needs (especially Time Management). It is very hard to run a clean and orderly home, when you work 10 hours from your home and by the time the PAID work is done, there is hardly any left for cleaning when there is homework to help with and dinner to cook. I am really hoping this series helps me to not only prioritize my time for maintaining my home but still have some time left over for me to enjoy things that I like. Learning how to use the forms you’ve made will help tremendously and I thank you for sharing your tips and tricks!

    1. Hi Alita, I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to respond before now. It sounds like you have a very full life. Being a single mom is tough work. I hope that you found some ideas in the series helpful.

  4. lonely2day says:

    I am a single mum of young children who has been thru one hell of a year, but most recently I broke down because I just couldn’t handle everything I have to do each day along with all the emotional support my children need and my own emotional needs along with not being able to get any down time to just not think or do anything. I have always struggled to get into the right head space to do the every day tasks to keep my house running. I have been sitting on day three for a few days now and have found your three magic plan to work really well. but I think I didn’t make my list properly because I wrote down my daily routine and chose three things from it to do with the area of home. they where ‘get kids ready for school’, ‘cook dinner (including clean up after with my children’s help)’, ‘bed time routine’ (basically showers, book, goodnight kisses & cuddles) I found this didn’t need much work so I added tidy floors to my list. I also did the list for each of my children so that they had there three things a day to do and so far it has worked wonders I actually got to sit down last night for the first time in months to watch a grown up movie after the kids went to bed. I don’t have high expectations on having a tidy house but cant stand having a dirty house. I have to admit with yesterdays floor clean up I found a mostly decomposed apple in the toy corner witch is bound to happen at some point if you have kids ( apparently the dog put it there) witch brings me to my second list for myself witch I chose self improvements. That list consisted of ‘not getting angry when something goes wrong with the children'(positively tell/show them what the right thing would have been), ‘start saying yes to the children more’ (allow for more fun time and actually join in) and ‘take 5 to breath’. I have printed this one on an extra large page and put it in the centre of the house so that I see it every time I walk past it and it is amazing how much it has helped.
    I just want to say thank you and any feedback would be a great help.

    1. It sounds to me like you are doing just fine! I love that you took the idea of the three things and made it work for you, and I love that you’ve included your kiddos too. Making time to take care of you is super important, especially as a single mom. You need that time to recharge your batteries. My best advice – keep doing what’s working for you. It sounds like you’ve got a solid foundation to build routines on. It’ll get there. You’re doing a great job!!!

  5. Just found you! You sound like a life saver for me! Starting today because I have so many amazing things I want to do! Let’s hope this helps me use my time with better focus!!!!! And squirrels are my favorite! Lol

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