Time Management #7: Do the Top 3 and Let the Rest Go!

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order…how, as a human being, does one face infinity?”
— Umberto Eco

There’s a famous photo floating around the Internet of one of Johnny Cash’s to-do lists that’s simply hilarious. So hilarious, in fact, that the original list sold in 2010 for $6,400! I don’t own the rights to this photo, but here’s an image from Julien’s Auctions:

A Johnny Cash handwritten "To Do" list from the Julien’s Live Auction page (www.julienslive.com)

A Johnny Cash handwritten "To Do" list from the Julien’s Live Auction page (www.julienslive.com)

In Cash’s handwritten note, the top 3 items are: 

1.     Not smoke

2.     Kiss June

3.     Not kiss anyone else

Which, I suppose, pretty much sums it all up. 😉

When it comes to our to-do lists, many of us get carried away, listing every single possible thing we can think of. And while brainstorming is a great exercise (and is vital to capture things for the future), seeing all that stuff together can get super overwhelming. 

So, what do you have to do today?

Let’s break it all down. Start by focusing on the TOP 3 THINGS on your to-do list, and let the rest go

Category 1 

This is all the big stuff. The things that absolutely, positively must get done today. Or else…no really. You gotta cross these things off. 

  • Pay your electricity bill, vote, make dinner, hit that work deadline you promised—whatever it is, you know this stuff needs to get done. 

Most likely, you’ll have more than one thing in this tier, so make sure to set priorities within this category as well. What’s most important? Notice I didn’t say what do you want to do first?...knuckle down and list what truly needs to come first at the top!

Category 2 

This second tier is for big/medium stuff that should get done today. List the things here that you’d like to accomplish—the stuff that would make you feel great about getting done.  

However, the stakes are lower here. Your life is not going crumble if these things don’t get done. 

Please notice that doesn’t mean you should ignore this section of the list since it’s not a Category 1. Maybe your world’s not going to fall apart, but your life would be a lot better if you tackled these things. 

Crossing these items off your list would give you such a sense of control…a sense of pride and accomplishment. If you can’t do them all, try to do half. 

Category 3 

Here’s the spot for all those things that would be cool to do, but you’re not going to break your back getting to them. It would be awesome to see them checked off, but it’s ok if they get pushed down the list or moved to a different day. 

  • Would I like to get a massage after yoga today? Hell yeah! Is it going to happen? Probably not. (But at least I made it to yoga.)

  • Could I get ahead on these blogs by 4 or 5 weeks at a time? Sure. But inspiration comes at weird times, and I’m doing my best. 

And that’s it y’all—THE TOP 3.

  1. Not smoke.

  2. Kiss June.

  3. Not kiss anyone else. 

And for all the stuff that falls outside these categories, either delegate it to someone else, or forget about it! We all have a finite amount of time each day, and we owe it to ourselves to do what’s most important to us. 

is just clutter that makes us feel we are falling behind.jpg

All the other stuff is just clutter that makes us feel we’re falling behind. It tricks us into thinking we’re constantly under performing—that we’re never quite good enough. And that’s bunk.  

Little by little those Top 3 will add up. Just think in a week you’ll have accomplished 15 Top things towards you big dream and in one month 60 Top things, check! So stay focused on this exercise and watch your dreams easily unfold. I can tell ya it feels so much better than stressing and striving and ending up procrastinating days away. Go for it now! What are your Top 3?

Kiss those Top 3 and no one else!