Time Management Tip: Use the Power of Three


Time Management Tip: Use the Power of Three

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By Allison C. Sheilds, President, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.


My last time management tip talked about creating a “Don’t Do” list – effectively whittling down the number of tasks or projects you have to complete so that you can prioritize and better focus on the highest value and most important tasks. Another tool to help you focus on what is most important is the Power of Three.

The principle behind the Power of Three is that the brain easily grasps and remembers ideas in threes. But once we start adding more, we start to become overwhelmed. (Remember that huge “to do” list?)

Bottom line: three is a manageable number. If you limit your daily “to do” list to three main items, you can accomplish all three more often than not. And that feeling of accomplishment translates into higher productivity and a better overall feeling about your day – powering the next day’s work and so on.

Harnessing the Power of Three

If you have three main tasks that need to be accomplished during the day, when distractions and interruptions arise you can quickly determine whether they are more important than your original three main goals or not. (Are they just urgent, or are they urgent and important?) If not, you’ll feel better about putting the distractions aside (or planning to eliminate them before you start working, which is a topic for a future post).

To use the Power of Three, ask yourself:

What 3 things will I do today so that, if I accomplish nothing else, I will feel that I had a productive day?

Don’t forget to write down your three daily goals or tasks. Not only does writing them down help focus your attention on those tasks and cement your commitment to getting them done, but it feels great to cross them off and to see a list with every one of your daily goals crossed off at the end of the day!

Goal-Setting and the Power of Three

The Power of Three also works for longer-term planning. Set only three big goals for your practice at a time. For each big goal that you set, there will be a lot of objectives to reach and many action steps to perform in order to get there. Trying to do too many things at once just leads to burnout.

Decide which three items are the most important and focus on those items or initiatives. Let’s face it: there’s no way you can do everything you’d like to do for your practice, at least not all at once. If you’ve determined that your three priorities for the next year include building up a new practice area, improving your client service, and developing your website, you’ll have plenty to do with those three big goals.

Focusing on only three large goals at a time will help you to prioritize and stay on course with your long-term plans the same way it does with daily tasks. It will be easier to reject other “wish list” items as they come along. When an opportunity, project, or task arises, you can evaluate whether or not it’s worth your time and effort by asking yourself whether that particular task will advance you toward one of your three goals. If it doesn’t fall into your three areas of focus, document the idea for later but put it on the back burner.

About the Author

Allison C. Shields, Esq. President, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc. I work with successful lawyers and law firms to establish higher value practices by developing strategies to increase efficiency, effectiveness, growth, and profitability.