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This is a guest post by Mike St. Pierre of The Daily Saint

There are plenty of suggestions for the average Joe who is stuck in a rut but wants to get back into shape. In fact, the “diet wars” as proclaimed by PBS and a myriad of other media outlets constitute a multi-billion dollar industry. While some claim that David Allen’s GTD system is the equivalent to the Atkins diet or even South Beach, it takes time to figure out and put into practice.

What could you do, if you didn’t have the time that GTD requires, in less than a week to reclaim your mojo? 

The Two Deadly P’s

First, let’s look at what leads people to feel overwhelmed and under-performing in the first place. We could point to two p’s as a starting point: perfectionism and procrastination.

The former is a dangerous bedfellow, delaying our actions until we think that we can get things “just right”. Our project plan is never quite good enough and our day to day work features a to-do list that carries uncompleted items over from day to day. What can you do about this?

First, recognize the issue by asking some colleagues or friends for some down-home feedback. 

Second, carry out each small (and large) task with a sense of being ‘good enough’. You’re not trying to slack off, just managing your issue with perfectionism. After a while, you’ll be able to determine the times when good enough can be pushed to better and other times when good enough is, well, enough.

As for procrastination, many a good intention has gotten ‘lost in the sauce’ in the muck of a procrastinator’s hand. Why do we procrastinate? There are many reasons, including a fear of new tasks, a perception that the work is too difficult, or even a sense that the job is too darn big. The good news is that each of these can be overcome with some savvy workplace strategery. If you are afraid of a task, jump on it within the first 24 hours of its being assigned. If you sense that the work is too difficult, employ a sidekick to work with you. If you sense that the work is too big, write down its stages until completion and then take it one bite at a time. 

The Three Day Rule

Now to the proactive side of reclaimed productivity, otherwise know as the Three Day Rule.

With procrastination and perfectionism in their places, look at each work week as a block of five pieces. Each workday represents a piece of the pie. When I coach new teachers as they are entering the profession, my advice is simple: aim for three good days out of every five.

Why three? Simply put, it’s manageable and gives teachers something with which to start. If we said five, then every week would be a failure. Likewise on the other end of the spectrum, teachers would aim too low. Three is a good starting point.

If I’m able to have three good days out of every week, I can say that I’m getting things done, managing my time, and accomplishing my goals a majority of the time. In an age when it doesn’t take that much to look better than the guy next to you, I’ll take three solid days. Here is the other upside of the Three Day Rule: it eventually morphs into four and even five good days.

Similar to working out, a productive week is like a stimulus for greater output and increased work-flow. You get a taste of it and then kick yourself when you have a bad day. The days which feature hours and hours of wasted time will seem like junk food for the health nut. Productivity takes on a mind of its own and the good news is this: it’s all yours for the taking. Why not practice the Three Day Rule for your week? You may indeed find that your good week will then turn into a great one in no time. Or at least in three days time.

Here are five tips for putting the Three Day Rule into practice this week:

  1. Plan out your week
    Look back at the previous 7-10 days and sift through what did or did not get done. Now look at the week ahead and integrate what’s coming with what’s left over from last week. Identify areas of concern, projects that need attention and relationships that require maintenance.

  2. Never leave for home without a five-minute scan of what comes next Avoid the temptation to rush out of work just so that you can get home. Don’t get me wrong- leaving work is a great feeling but not at the expense of the bigger picture of your work. A quick five minute scan of your workspace, to-do list and calendar will help negotiate tomorrow’s work all the more.

  3. Simplify your to-do list
    Cut back, delegate more often and simplify whenever possible. 

  4. Allow time and space for interruptions. As you begin to see purpose and passion in and through your work, the interruptions become part of the flow. Help those around you to know when and how you like to work, then coach them again and again. Learn to be compassionate when others need help and must interrupt your work. 

  5. Nail your Monday and Friday
    Like a gymnast who needs a great start and the ability to land on two feet at the conclusion, a steady hand at work will see the bookends as crucial determiners of your success. With the Three Day Rule, a healthy start and savvy finish are essential determiners of your success.

Mike St. Pierre is the creator of The Daily Saint, a productivity blog with a spiritual twist.

3 Comments

  • Simple Zack

    gravatarMar 18, 2008
    3:32 pm

    I used to be a procrastinator beyond believe. I now use a lot of what you’ve mentioned, especially planning. Planning out your week and scheduling what needs to be done and when, is one of the most important parts of overcoming your loss of production.

    Great post :)

  • Allan F. Wright

    gravatarMar 24, 2008
    2:39 pm

    WOW, I’ve been a victim of the 2 p’s myself-much to my own demise. I find that cutting those un-necessary items out is something I need to work on. Thanks Allan

  • Ishani Mitra

    gravatarJul 3, 2008
    11:38 am

    Excellent tips. Outsourcing also goes a long way in increasing your productivity and helping you stay organised as well as get things done on time.