141. Leveraging the Power of Less: Your Daily Big 3
We often think about productivity as just being hyper-focused, full of energy, and simply checking the highest possible amount of tasks off of our to-do list. The problem with that is that the level of energy required to execute that plan is simply unsustainable. It leads to burnout and, perhaps, you’re even worse off than you were before you started.
Courtney and Verbs talk about the power of focusing on the key tasks that will keep pushing you forward every single day. It’s not rocket science, but its power cannot be overstated. Of course, we’re talking about the Daily Big 3.
We’re also introducing a new “Show & Tell” segment where we share some of our favorite productivity tips, tricks, and gear directly with you! To watch this episode, visit https://youtu.be/3wPSt88UkyA.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Why it’s important to prioritize just a few tasks every day
- How setting a Daily Big 3 provides clarity, calm, and progress toward your goals
- What it looks like when you’re over capacity
- That you’ve been playing UNO wrong your entire life
Items from Show & Tell:
For more podcasts, visit www.focusonthispodcast.com.
Nick Jaworski: So I’m just coming off a very busy week, everybody. It’s one of those things where you’re in it and you go, “You can’t even believe what’s happening.” My son turned 13 on Friday and we had this idea that we were going to, it was all my Weekly Big 3, we were going to build him this table top gaming thing. He’s really into Dungeons and Dragons right now and so we got this table and we went to [inaudible 00:00:27] and we got the wood and [inaudible 00:00:30], all this stuff, right? And we have to do it when he’s not here or I’m not working or he’s asleep, so it really minimizes when you can do it.
Courtney Baker: Yeah.
Nick Jaworski: And on Wednesday, we got this board, half of it was sanded and finished from the place and the other half wasn’t. And I was moving it around and cleaning the basement and I got a splinter on Wednesday. It was not until Saturday afternoon that I had time to get it out. I spent three days with a splinter in my thumb because I was just running around. And so I just thought to myself, “Man, wouldn’t this be a great week just to have less going on?” I don’t remember any of it really, it was not the experience I wanted.
Courtney Baker: What I want to know is how we created a monster, a monster who is like, “It’s not on my Daily Big 3 today to take out this splinter.”
Nick Jaworski: That’s a good point. I should write it down.
Verbs Boyer: Nick, you are 10 times the man that I would ever hope to be. I would’ve cleared my entire calendar to [inaudible 00:01:41] to that small splinter, that’s how much I could tolerate pain.
Nick Jaworski: Well, okay, let me tell you this. I kept saying it, it’d be like, “Oh. We had to go to a wedding on Saturday.” And I kept going like, “Oh, okay, I’m going to get this out.” And then when I finally went to go get it out after the morning wedding, I went and showed it to everybody in my house, out it in my hand.
Verbs Boyer: Okay.
Nick Jaworski: And I was like, “Look at the thing that I’ve been living with, the thing that I got building this thing for you for your birthday.” And everybody was like, “Oh, okay, that was really small.” Nobody actually literally said to me, “I can’t believe you’re showing me this.” So anyway, I’m just highlighting what can happen if you’ve got so much going on, if you’ve got too much going on in a given week, perhaps you find yourself making choices that are unhealthy and maybe you’re not getting the work done like you might want to. Is anyone have anything similar to this where you’re running around? I mean, Courtney? It’s not like you don’t have anything going on at home right now?
Courtney Baker: No, I don’t have anything going on. And honestly, everything that comes top to mind, like top of mind is nowhere close to just like running around with self inflicted pain. But yeah, again, I’ve said this many times on the podcast, but there’s nothing like having a small human to keep alive, to keep things a little chaotic at all times. So, yeah. But I’m trying to think if there’s anything that really compares with running around with a splinter for a week.
Nick Jaworski: And Verbs, you wouldn’t know anything about this, you don’t have enough kids around there.
Verbs Boyer: No, we don’t. We need a few more, but I will say this is we talk about our own schedules and then again, we have three, so then, they’re at the age now where they have a need to have schedules. So we’re in that transition, at least at the time of this recording, of heading into summertime [inaudible 00:03:42] schools letting out, but now we realize, “Hey, we probably need to schedule something for these children to go to some kind of summer camp program, something.” So we’re in that process of figuring that out for them and then matching that up with our schedules and make sure that everybody’s considered. We’re formulating a thing like a Weekly Big 3, a Daily Big 3, or just life in general. So that’s kind of the mode that we’re in at the moment. So today, we’re going to be talking about one of the most foundational tools of the planner. It seems…
Courtney Baker: I don’t think we should tall them. I think we should just say the most foundational tool of the planner.
Verbs Boyer: Just leave them hanging in suspense until after the intro?
Courtney Baker: Yeah.
Verbs Boyer: I like it. Let’s do it.
Nick Jaworski: Okay. Great.
Verbs Boyer: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs here with Courtney Baker. Happy Monday to you, Courtney.
Courtney Baker: Happy Monday. I’m so curious if people have picked what they think is the most foundational tool of the planner.
Verbs Boyer: Yeah. It could be a plethora of tools that are currently in the planner.
Nick Jaworski: It’s in the title of the episode. Don’t tell Courtney.
Verbs Boyer: Who reads the titles? Nick, who reads the titles of these episodes?
Nick Jaworski: That’s a good point.
Verbs Boyer: They just press play and [inaudible 00:05:13].
Nick Jaworski: That’s true.
Courtney Baker: I don’t even know the title of this episode. Yeah. So today, this is really, probably the most simplest exercise that we can give you, especially if you’re somebody that has never used the planner and you’re just looking for some quick tips to help you, I think it’s one of the best tips we can give you. If you are a planner user, I hope today re-energizes you on why this is so important. And today, we’re talking about the Daily Big 3, just the exercise of selecting three things you’ll complete for the day and why it’s so important.
Verbs Boyer: And we said this probably in previous episodes before that. A lot of times people get the planner, first time user, they open it up and they’re overwhelmed by the amount of tools that are included in the planner and where to start first is kind of up in the air. It’s like, “Where do I start first? Where do I begin with? Is it with the goals? Do I start with this weekly preview?” And we always direct them or direct them to the Daily Big 3 because you’re already in your day, you know that the amount of things that you have to do. So this is going to actually make you think about what are the top leverage things that I need to get done today that are really going to help move things along. That way, I think at the end of the day, I can account for what I’ve done and actually feel like my day was productive.
Courtney Baker: I think that’s so true. I think it’s true for people when they start using the planner, like you and I always teach that in the onboarding webinar for the Full Focus Planner, but I also think that’s true if you’ve found yourself fallen off the wagon, maybe you’ve just been through a banana season, you’re Nick running around with a splinter in your thumb, whatever that looks like, I think just getting back to that practice of selecting your Daily Big 3 can really be the catalyst to get you back on track.
Verbs Boyer: No, I agree. And I think also, this is the first time I’ve actually thought about this when you said that is that’s the one tool in the planner, it already has a built-in consistent rhythm to it, right? So it’s harder to start off with annual goals because that’s once a year, it’s harder to start off with a quarterly preview, that’s every three months, even a weekly preview because that’s every seven days, but a daily preview, even if you’re just getting started, it gives you a chance the next day to get back on it and keep it going, so you can establish a good healthy rhythm right out of the box.
Courtney Baker: Okay. So we want to give you a couple of reasons to, we’ve already given you some good reasons, but some core reasons for why you should set a Daily Big 3.
Verbs Boyer: Reason number one is you get more done by doing less. Now, even hearing that reason is it almost seems antithetical because it’s like you look at your calendar, you look at your task list, you can visibly see the amount of things that you have to get done within the span of your day, let alone a month, or more, but being able to focus and force yourself to prioritize and focus on what matters most, then that’s going to give you the leverage that you need to actually pay attention to what matters most because one, you’re writing it down every day, you’re making it visible, you’re putting it right in front of your face, so it’s not just out there as a thing that you know needs to be done that never really gets chased down, and it helps you keep yourself accountable for those things that you’re writing down in your Big 3.
Courtney Baker: Yeah. I think this is so interesting too. I think culturally, we’ve set the expectation that the way to get fulfillment is to check the most boxes in the list. And that’s a really flawed philosophy because it basically says every check box is equal and that’s just not the case, but that’s really how, I think, we’ve set ourselves up to look at our task list when really what we need to do is figure out, what are the things if I accomplish today, I’m going to leave the day feeling fulfilled, like I accomplish something? What are those things? What are the most important things I need to accomplish today, and prioritize those. And certainly, there are other tasks that you’re going to do, but by completing those fewer things, prioritizing those, you leave the day feeling like, “Wow, I really won today. I’ve really got done the things, the fewer things, but the things that were more important.”
Verbs Boyer: Yeah, it’s funny. I’m going to tell this story, hopefully that it ties into what we’re actually talking about, I think it does, but I was playing UNO with my kids this weekend and it’s one of our favorite card games to play, but depending where you go, everybody has their version of the house rules of UNO.
Courtney Baker: Oh yeah.
Verbs Boyer: And so I introduced them. I said, “You can actually play UNO and actually keep scoring.” They never heard of this. Have you guys ever done UNO with actually tracking?
Nick Jaworski: I don’t…
Courtney Baker: I guess not a score. Yeah. What do you mean exactly? But I thought there was a score built-in.
Verbs Boyer: Okay. Well, there is. Obviously, the object of the game is to get one card left in your hand while pulling draw twos, draw fours to your opponents, so they can get as many cards in the hands as possible. But now, we probably need to Google this, but when you keep scoring UNO, every, I’ll call them a face card, so every reverse draw two, draw four, wild card that’s left in your hand, it has a value to it. So let’s say wild card is 50 points.
Courtney Baker: Yes. Mm-hmm.
Verbs Boyer: So the goal during the game is you have to get rid of all your high value cards first, because if you go out or somebody else goes out, you want your lowest number cards in your hand, you want your ones and your twos and your threes because when you tally those up, the person who actually wins is the person with the lowest score.
Nick Jaworski: Yeah. [inaudible 00:11:16] ever done that before.
Verbs Boyer: Yeah. And it can be a longer round of UNO, those can go on for a couple hours because everybody’s keeping score and still trying to win, but when I’m thinking about that version of the game, this is almost what you want to do here is you get more done by doing less. So it forces you into getting rid of those highest leverage cards that you would normally save to the end and put those down in the deck, that way you have a better chance at the end of actually winning because you held on to your lowest scoring cards. But at early in the game, you got rid of all your high leverage ones.
Courtney Baker: Yes.
Verbs Boyer: Does that work?
Courtney Baker: Gosh. Yes.
Verbs Boyer: Yes. Thank you. Thank you.
Courtney Baker: Yes. That’s actually exactly right. Yeah. I’m not even sure I can add anything to that, so I’m going to go on to reason number two.
Reason number two, you actually, we kind of mentioned this, but you feel better when doing less. Again, when we frame things as like, the goal today is to check as mini boxes as possible, and again, we call it the never ending to-do list because things are coming in as fast as you can check them off, you’re just going to be overwhelmed. It is like you’re on the hamster wheel and what that leads to is really a lack of motivation. If you’re just constantly spinning that wheel and feeling like, “I can never get ahead. I can never… The only way for me to get all these things checked off is for me to work nights and weekends.” That is really a recipe for burnout.
And so what this does is really gives you the ability not to feel overwhelmed. If you really focus on, “Okay, these are the three highest priority things that I need to do and I get those checked off, I feel accomplished. I don’t feel overwhelmed.” And you kind of build momentum as you finish your Big 3 every day. So you finish your Big 3 on Monday, you leave with a sense of accomplishment. On Tuesday, you’re like, “Okay, I did it yesterday.” The more you flex that muscle, the more that you have confidence of like, “Okay. Yeah, I know how to prioritize and get the right things done rather than just all of the things.”
Verbs Boyer: And I know this is a running topic on the show, Courtney, but even when we talk about whether it’s workouts or any sort of exercise regimen, those first couple of days, you’re starting from zero, just a cold start, it feels clunky. You’re motivated in the sense of, “You know what? If I stick with this, then these are the results I can get.” But that first week or so, you might be getting up at a earlier time, your muscles are all sore, and you’re not truly motivated to get to the next day, but the more you push in, the more you continue to do it again and you establish that rhythm. You start to see the results that you’re actually hoping for.
Nick Jaworski: Can I ask on behalf of the listener, somebody who maybe doesn’t have as much experience with the Big 3, they’re going to say, “But I have so much stuff to do. It is fantasy land, to go, three things is in a day, that’s crazy.” So what would you say to them?
Courtney Baker: Well, I would say, absolutely. There are usually, and I’ll talk about the flip side of this in just a minute, there are usually more than three things that you’re going to do in a day, that you’re going to get done, but what this choosing your daily victory and focusing on those things first, what it does is just prioritize. It’s just bringing the most important things to the surface, of course, there are going to be other tasks that you do, other things that are going to get checked off, but it reframes, again, the whole practice instead of just how many check marks can I get everything weighted equal to, “Okay, I’m going to prioritize the most important things first, that’s going to, again, give me this feeling of fulfillment, this kind of ability to combat overwhelm. Again, you’re going to get a lot done in the day, but it’s not going to be all way to just like all things are created equal.
Verbs Boyer: That’s good, Courtney. I like what you just said. What are the things that are going to combat overwhelm, but also what are the things that I’m going to be able to do that’s going to get overwhelmed off of my plate altogether? Because the goal essentially is I want the freedom to be able to have time in my day, to be able to give some of my best energy to my other relationships, whether it’s a spouse, whether it’s children, whether it’s friends or whoever’s in your community, what can I do and move those things off of the plate but still going to get the game moving down the field? So me and my two sons, they’re 8 and 10, we participated in a father son weekend a couple weeks ago, this camp. So during the camp, we played Wiffle ball, right? So there’s this whole resurgence of a Wiffle ball movement going on. And it was actually pretty cool.
Courtney Baker: Was it [inaudible 00:16:41] Wiffle ball or just normal Wiffle ball?
Verbs Boyer: Nope, just normal Wiffle ball.
Courtney Baker: Okay. All right.
Verbs Boyer: But we’re playing with younger guys. So they’re six years old, seven years old, eight years old, but yet, we still want to win this game. So we let the guys, the younger guys go first and we noticed this game was moving slowly, we’re not getting our home runs in, or our runners aren’t coming in, so it’s a slow game. Then we realized we need to probably sprinkle in dads in the batting lineup to get the game going. And once that started happening, dads were stepping up, they’re cracking the ball over the fence, the home run, because these were our highest leverage players that we could implement into this game to get the scoreboard in the upward direction and get our boys across the plate to keep the game moving. So that was the point is how do we put in our highest leverage players to get this score going in the direction it needs to go?
Courtney Baker: I think this is brilliant. [inaudible 00:17:42] Verbs, you are fire today with the [inaudible 00:17:45].
Verbs Boyer: It’s two today, I got two stories.
Courtney Baker: [inaudible 00:17:46] really good ones. But I think what you’re saying is so wise because a lot of times, I think the things that need to be prioritized, need to be part of your Daily Big 3, a lot of times there are things that once they’re done, they make other tasks easier.
Verbs Boyer: And I think it’s worth saying also that you still have a place for those other things that you need to do, they’re just not in those top marque features of your Big 3. Those will go into your tasks or your task management system or whatever you use, as things that you’ll eventually be able to get to, but it’s not that those highest leverage items that are going to appear in your Big 3 for that day.
Nick Jaworski: So if I’m a new planner user, I’ve got this beautiful planner in front of me and I go, “What do I do?” Or if I’m a current planner user and I’ve maybe lost a little bit of the thread, what should I do with, let’s say, today or tomorrow’s Big 3 section?
Courtney Baker: Yeah. I think some questions that might help you with that is just to ask, what is most important today? Or is there anything urgent today? Again, when you’re talking about today, and both of those things are important to look at, what’s urgent and what’s important today, I would say the third question, that personally really helps me is, “Okay, what do I need to do today that would, at the end of the day, if I got it done, would give me that sense of fulfillment?” I would leave thinking, “Wow, I got a lot done today.” Even if I just got these three things done, I would have that sense of accomplishment. Now, so starting out, that’s some, maybe helpful questions to think of.
If you’ve been using the planner for a while, one thing in addition that you would want to ask is what moves help you tick off your Weekly Big 3? So you’re using the context of what you’ve said is most important for the week and then distilling those down into daily actions. And so if you’ve been using it for a while, you’ll want to add that as a question to ask yourself.
Verbs Boyer: So one of the beauties about the advent of the Focus on This podcast, now being in visual format, is the implementation of a brand new segment that we’re calling Focus on This Show and Tell. Now these are items that we’ll be able to show you guys, small items, maybe their tips, their hacks, things that we’ve put into play in our lives either out of convenience, they help us with our productivity or just things we enjoy because they bring us joy. So I’m going to go ahead and let my cohorts today here, begin the Show and Tell segment.
Nick Jaworski: All right. Well, I’ll go first, very excited about this. And I take it as one of my husbandly duties to make coffee every night. I like it, I like to know that it’s done, and I like to be able to have my wife just have it. So we do it in the night before, set the machine, and for some birthday, Christmas, I don’t know, whatever. She bought me, it’s one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever gotten, I’ve already talked about this, but if you can see the video, you should check it out, it is a clip that goes on your coffee bag. Oh, is that ASMR for you? Do you like that?
Courtney Baker: That was. Yes.
Nick Jaworski: But it’s a clip that goes on your coffee bag that, there’s more ASMR, that is also your scoop. So I’ve been using the same scoop for three, four years now. So I’ve got my dosing all planned out and it just clips to my bag every morning or every night and every night, I’m so just pleased that it’s there and it’s so convenient, and so I really like, honestly, I don’t know how much this was, I don’t know where you get them, I’m sure it’s not easy to find, but I really compared to what I was doing before. “Oh, it’s a spoon, it’s all…” This is great, so I highly recommend this. It’s great for getting your coffee the same every day and it just makes me feel like I’ve hacked the system a little bit. So that’s what I’m showing up.
Courtney Baker: Well, great news. You’re not sure where it’s from, but I’m really good at Google and I have found a link that you can get a three pack for $10 of those and we can include that in the show notes.
Verbs Boyer: Nick, I’m curious to know. So is this whole coffee thing that you do in the evening, is this actually part of your evening ritual?
Nick Jaworski: It is Verbs. Thank you so much for pointing that out. And it wasn’t always. And sometimes there are moments, you know how it is, where you’re, “I’m tired. I’ve had such a long day, whatever.” But I really have committed to just like past Nick decided that future Nick needs coffee in the morning and so when you walk out of your room and there’s already coffee, you turn the corner and you can smell the coffee, it’s a small delight, so the coffee scoop…
Verbs Boyer: That’s fantastic. High five to future Nick there.
Nick Jaworski: Who wants to go next?
Courtney Baker: I have one, but I don’t have the item.
Verbs Boyer: Courtney. How about you?
Nick Jaworski: That’s fine.
Courtney Baker: Is that okay?
Nick Jaworski: Well, let’s be honest. We sprung this on Courtney. So…
Verbs Boyer: Yeah.
Courtney Baker: Okay. Listen.
Verbs Boyer: And we’re still audio [inaudible 00:23:17].
Courtney Baker: You all are going to die when I tell you all this item because I don’t have it at the moment and you’ll see why it’s a problem in a minute. But I have AirPods which are great, but I feel like I’m decently good at keeping up with things, but whatever it is about those AirPods, I just can never find them. Never. It’s like a thing. And even the find your iPhone thing, it doesn’t always work very well. In my opinion, it’s like, “Ay, where are the AirPods?” And so I got this case that actually clips to my keys and now I keep my AirPods with my keys, so I always now and I find that I use them a lot more often because I just always have them. So if I’m out at the grocery store, well, I’ve got my AirPods, I can just pop-in a podcast and listen to it while I’m shopping, but strangely, don’t have it in this moment to show you all because I’m pretty sure I left my keys in my car.
And I also have a tile on my keys, so it’s like, I have multiple ways to keep up with these AirPods now, again, because they are not cheap, not the thing that you want to be losing on the regular. So there is my little, a Show and Tell productivity thing. [inaudible 00:24:51].
Nick Jaworski: Okay. What are you showing us today?
Verbs Boyer: Yeah. So actually one of our teammates on our marketing team, Amy Fucci, had mentioned this item. She said it and I was like, “Man, we were recording some videos for course.” And I was like, I didn’t even know they made that. I’m going to investigate, actually she sent me the link and it was about to be my birthday and my wife and my family got this item for my birthday. So I do a lot of work at computers all day and everybody knows that if you’re sitting for a long amount of time, your posture tends to slouch a little bit. So there’s this device called the Upright Go and what it is, I’m going to show you now, is a little monitor that’s connected to your iPhone. And so the moment you start to slouch a little bit, it’ll… You can calibrate it first, so you take your normal position and your slouching position. So when it knows you’re starting to slouch, it’ll send a little vibration to this device and then that tells you, “Hey, straighten up your back young man.” So they bought this for the birthday, it’s awesome.
Courtney Baker: I’ve seen this on Instagram. Now, do you mind telling us how much that costs? Because right now, Nick and I, both of our items are $10 or under… Is that under $10 by chance?
Verbs Boyer: Wait. Wait. Yours included AirPods, Courtney.
Courtney Baker: No. Oh, well, that’s true. But the real tip was this case that you can hook to your keys. That’s my stuff.
Verbs Boyer: Okay. Okay. Fair enough. Actually, I think these might have been maybe $49.
Courtney Baker: Wow. And what’s it called?
Verbs Boyer: So it’s called the Upright Go and there’s a couple of different models, so they have a little bit of a pricing tier. You can get a necklace that connects to the device and then you just throw the necklace on or you get the little sticky tabs that go directly to your back between your shoulder blades, that come with the basic model of it. So…
Courtney Baker: Even just talking about it is making my posture better.
Nick Jaworski: Yeah. I have to say, I actually do have one. I have an older model of it. I do think that it’s great.
Verbs Boyer: Yeah.
Nick Jaworski: You can use it for, because I stand at my desk all day, you can use it for standing at your desk. You can use it for walking. If you want or if you go to the store, it has different modes for how…
Verbs Boyer: Now, that I did not know.
Nick Jaworski: … how rigid do you want to be, right? If you’re walking, you’re going to lean over a little bit further probably. I think it’s great because I get headaches a lot if my posture is too bad, so I got it for that reason. So that’s too, I’m co-signing Verbs’. What a great series of items.
Courtney Baker: Yeah.
Nick Jaworski: Yeah.
Verbs Boyer: Sorry. I meant to show the little screen there. So…
Courtney Baker: So it has an app that goes with it?
Verbs Boyer: So that works. Slouch.
Nick Jaworski: Yeah.
Verbs Boyer: Yep.
Courtney Baker: I am [inaudible 00:27:39].
Verbs Boyer: Well, the app tells you when you begin to slouch as well.
Nick Jaworski: Yeah. This is a great inaugural Show and Tell. You know what we should do. We should encourage people to go to the Full Focus Planner community and they can share off some of their favorite little tips and gadgets.
Courtney Baker: Well, that’s a good idea and then we can buy them all and then we can share them.
So we are pretty excited to say because we’re going to make a little adjustment to the show. Usually, we have a final thought for you at the end of the episode, but if you’ve listened for a while, you may be excited to hear the new direction, which is to give you a tip that really levels up your planner usage at the end of the episode. So very special tip of the day brought to you by Verbs.
Verbs Boyer: Well, thank you Courtney. And so here’s today’s tip to level up your planner usage. You want to start each of your Daily Big 3 with a strong verb. So what this looks like is thinking of the item that you want to accomplish and prefacing that with a verb like finish, write, complete, implement, do, something strong that connotates action and helps you realize, “Hey, this is going to get done today.” And it helps frame it up for you a little bit better.
Courtney Baker: So today’s tip is strong verb with Verbs.
Verbs Boyer: Brought to you by the letter V.
Courtney Baker: The letter V.
Verbs Boyer: Well, thank you for joining us on Focus on This.
Courtney Baker: This is the most productive podcast on the internet, so make sure you share it with your friends and don’t forget to join us over in the Full Focus Planner community on Facebook.
Verbs Boyer: To join us next week, we will be back with another great episode, but until then stay focused.
Courtney Baker: Stay focused.
Nick Jaworski: Stay focused.