As working moms – in the relentless pursuit of success – we often find ourselves grappling with an ever-growing to-do list, racing against the clock to accomplish more each day, but instead zapping our productivity.
Let me know if this sounds familiar.
Your toddler wakes up multiple times during the night, waking you up and tiring you out. Your alarm goes off much sooner than you’d like to get her ready for preschool. You spend the early hours of the morning screaming negotiating with her to follow directions so that you can get her dressed, fed, and out of the house. Harried and hurried, you barely make it to drop-off on time.
By the time you get back home, you’re frazzled and discombobulated, and just in time to get your day constantly interrupted by work before you’ve gotten the chance to get your bearings. You spend the rest of the day in a state of rushed anxiety, worried you’ve forgotten about something important while trying to finish important tasks before the pickup deadline.
By the time dinner rolls around (if you remembered to make or order dinner), you’re often left with the feeling of not “enough-ness.”
I wasn’t productive enough. I didn’t accomplish enough. I didn’t sleep enough.
The constant pressure to be productive can lead to overwhelming stress and burnout, leaving us drained and unsatisfied.
But what if there was a simple yet powerful hack that could help us achieve more while reducing stress?
Buckle up, because I’m about to unveil a game-changing productivity secret that not only revolutionized the way I and countless of my clients work, but also unlocks a new level of efficiency that moved us towards our goals faster and with less stress.
Now, what I’m about to say is pretty counter-intuitive and does involve a mindset shift. This mindset shift centers around the idea of slowing down to speed up. To quote Marie Forleo:
“Simplify to amplify.”
Part of the reason we as working moms feel like failures when we don’t complete everything on our to-do lists is because our to-do lists are chock full of tasks that can’t possibly be accomplished in a single day. Plus, most of them have competing priorities. So, we run around trying to do a little bit of everything, and never really accomplishing anything.
And that list just gets longer and longer.
The secret to getting out of that cycle is identifying your Big Three.
How It Works
Your Big Three are the three most important tasks that must be accomplished in the upcoming week. Ideally, this would encapsulate both work and your personal life, but it’s okay to limit this to just work as – I’m sure we all know – life can sometimes kick you in the butt.
Next, you break down the steps you need to accomplish those three goals into no more than three tasks you need to accomplish each day. I call this your Daily Big Three and your Weekly Big Three. Revolutionary names, I know. 😉
Once, and only once, you complete your Daily Big Three, you can entertain other tasks that may creep up. Or you know – the dreaded word all of us working moms have guilt around – rest.
This allows you to not only prioritize but immediately identify where you need to expend your energy and what you need to say “no” to.
For example, say I had to get out a 200-page contract this week, take my daughter to the doctor, and prepare to leave for a trip at the end of the week. Those would be my Weekly Big Three and I can ignore other things that “would be nice” to accomplish that week, but are not necessary (e.g., meal prep, a new work project with the same week deadline, etc.).
I would then break down my day into no more than three tasks that move me towards accomplishing my Weekly Big Three. That can look like one task for a day and three tasks on another, but in no event, should I plan to accomplish seven tasks in a day to reach my goals.
A sample breakdown might look like this:
Day 1: Draft half of the contract, call to make the doctor’s appointment, and throw clothes in the washer and dryer in preparation to pack for the trip.
Day 2: Finish drafting the contract, put away laundry, and create a packing list.
Day 3: Review contract in its entirety, take daughter to the doctor’s office & pick up any prescriptions, and lay clothes out for the trip.
Day 4: Revise contract, draft client email and get the contract out, and pack.
Day 5: Travel.
If I happen to finish each daily task, I would either give myself a break or fit it in minor things that are “nice to accomplish.” For example, if I have 30 minutes to cook spaghetti for dinner, sure I’ll knock that out after I’m done with my Daily Big Three. Or I can give myself a break and order from DoorDash, or warm up something I got from Trader Joe’s.
The point is not to overwhelm yourself with an impossible list of “to-dos” and get virtually none of them done. In fact, your “to-don’t” list should be longer and there should be no more than three big things on your daily to-do list. Tasks can move off the “to-don’t” list as they become necessary to accomplish within a specific week.
The magic here is that you get three big goals accomplished every single week, consistently moving you forward toward the things that are important in your life and at your work. Which gets you closer to your overall goals faster and with less stress.
There is one caveat.
You should only build in your Big Three once you’ve figured out your daily non-negotiables. These are things that need to happen every single day for your life to run smoothly. By contrast, The Big Three are virtually non-recurring items that need to get done.
For example, getting your kid ready for school should not be a Big Three item if that is your regular daily task. However, if that task belongs to your spouse, and they are on a trip for a particular week, it could fall into a Daily Big Three item, leaving less room for other matters in that particular week.
If, like many of my clients, you need help figuring out your non-negotiables and implementing The Big Three concept in your life, book a strategy call here and we’ll work it out together.