The Pick Three Strategy

 In Procrastination, Time Management

Like two year olds who exclaim, “I do it myself!” we often try to get control over our lives by doing everything while grabbing handfuls responsibility, obligation and stress like they were M&Ms. But of course no one can do everything and our propensity to try anyway can cause massive stress and actually decrease productivity. I believe the “I can do that myself!” philosophy is an automatic impulse and like most impulses, needs to be recognized, controlled and in many cases eliminated.

Pick Three!


To cure my own life long habit of saying “I can do it myself!” I invented a framework for thinking. I call it “just pick three.” I have three “treasures” that I take total responsibility for in my life. Just three! These are not priorities, or values, or sources of renewal (three would never be enough!). They are instead, the responsibilities that I allow myself complete commitment— in body, mind and soul.

My three picks: Mine are dating my husband, raising my son and working directly with my clients. During stressful times I remind myself that my three are the only responsibilities that really matter. Pick Three does not mean that I cannot have help from others. Of course, I need help in my business and in the early years I definitely needed help raising my son—and the dating my husband part I cannot delegate—ha. It does mean that I keep those three aspects of my life constantly on my radar screen and everything else from dog poop to data entry can be delegated, deleted (my favorite), or done later. I don’t ignore the other parts of my life—but none get the unfettered attention of my three.

The Pick Three strategy helps manage that gut-wrenching kind of stress brought on by life’s overwhelming demands. Choosing to put things in their proper perspective directs how I use my energy and resources. The Pick Three process reduces my chances of making a poor choice now that could produce a disastrous outcome later—and having 65 things that we must do perfectly causes disaster. Under the same line of thinking my workouts get top attention because the stress relief and health benefits improve my Pick Three. Still, I must constantly remind myself not to start ladling stuff into one of my critical categories that does not belong. For example, I might rationalize that laundry is certainly part of raising my son or that bookkeeping is part of client delivery—but that defeats the purpose of picking three. Since laundry is not one of my three it can be done by someone else or done later (workouts cannot). This mental framework helps me feel saner in an increasingly insane world.

In the moments where I doubt my Pick Three strategy, am feeling guilty about something on the list, or am trying to make ends meet I remind myself that none of the activities of life are worth it to me if I don’t have my three. Sure I want a perfect house, a perfect office and a perfect child—but not as much as I want to stay married, be a good mom and knock my client’s socks off with my work.

Take a moment to pick your 3 responsibilities that matter to you the most.

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  • Frannie

    I love it Brenda. This is a great reminder.

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