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Kevin Meyer

Lean

The Simple Leader: The Big Three

Boost your daily productivity with consistent planning

Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2016 - 08:49

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Like most people, I maintain a fairly long to-do list of personal and professional projects. It’s a few pages long—especially the honey-do portion. Because the list can be intimidating, I need a good strategy to tackle it.

Going about it sequentially isn’t appropriate since the tasks have varying levels of importance and time sensitivity, so each morning, I take a few moments to review my list and decide on the “Big Three” tasks that I want to get accomplished that day. Just three—no more, no less. Sometimes, one of the three may take only 10 minutes, but if it rises to the importance of being one of the top three, then it deserves a spot. Maybe I’ll have time to work on a fourth task during the day, but I won’t include it on the list. By limiting the number to just three, I’m forced to prioritize and focus on getting the best return in the short period of just one day.

The Big Three become the focus for the day, and I list them in my journal to ensure I stay on track. I try very hard not to insert another priority that may arise during the day, unless it absolutely, positively has to be there. (If such grenades are being launched into your schedule on a regular basis, then you might have other organizational or process issues to deal with.)

At the end of the day, I reflect on the day’s activities, including the Big Three. If I did not finish one of them, I try to understand what happened and what barriers I encountered. Did I underestimate the scope of a task? Was I distracted or interrupted? Did a different high priority task “grenade” get lobbed into my day? If so, why? Was it truly more important, or just more interesting? After I figure out the barriers, I try to put countermeasures into place to do better next time. Through this process, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

I’ve used this Big Three method for nearly 10 years, and although it is simple, it has probably created the largest boost in my productivity out of anything I have tried. It is amazing how much you can get done over a week, month, or year if you just finish three key tasks every day.

What are your three tasks today?

This article is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen (Gemba Academy LLC, 2016)

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About The Author

Kevin Meyer’s picture

Kevin Meyer

Kevin Meyer has more than 25 years of executive leadership experience, primarily in the medical device industry, and has been active in lean manufacturing for more than 20 years serving as director and manager in operations and advanced engineering, and as CEO of a medical device manufacturing company. He consults and speaks at lean events; operates the online knowledgebase, Lean CEO, and the lean training portal, Lean Presentations; and is a partner in GembaAcademy.com, which provides lean training to more than 5,000 companies. Meyer is co-author of Evolving Excellence–Thoughts on Lean Enterprise Leadership (iUniverse Inc., 2007) and writes weekly on a blog of the same name.