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Today I want to talk about a simple intervention that can help you be more productive and focused in your work. Here is the intervention: At the beginning of your day, identify your 3 most important tasks. I like to call these my MITs.

What is an MIT?

What is an MIT? An MIT is a work task that is important for you to complete. It should be a task that moves you forward on one of your big goals. Also, and this is important, it should be something that takes less than one hour to complete.

If you’re like most of us, your major tasks take longer than one hour to finish. If this is the case, break up your larger task into smaller chunks, and make one of your small chunks an MIT. For example, right now I’m working on a book. The book will obviously take longer than one hour to finish, so I need to break it up into smaller chunks. One of my MITs for today is to write one page in my book. This is something that can be completed in less than an hour.

Limit Yourself to 3 MITs

Back to the intervention: First thing in the morning (before checking email or phone messages), write down your top 3 MITs. You might have more than 3 things you want to get done today, and that’s fine. But only put 3 on the MIT list. These are things that you absolutely must get done today. It’s called a MIT list for a reason!

Focus Your Energy

Once you have your 3 MITs written down, focus all your energy on completing the first task. (Remember, no email or phone yet!) You should be able to complete this task in less than one hour. Once you finish, take about ten minutes to stand up, walk around, and take a break. Then focus all your energy on completing the second task. Once you finish the second task, take another short break. Finally, focus all your energy on completing the third task.

Respond to Everything Else

If you have a traditional work schedule and start working at 8 or 9am, you should be done with your 3 MITs by lunchtime. Then (and only then), open your email. You may have things you need to address or respond to. That’s fine. You can also use the afternoon to make progress on other tasks that didn’t make your MIT list.

First Things First

The key is to write down your 3 MITs first thing in the morning, and then focus all your energy on completing your MITs BEFORE you check your email and start responding to everyone else. If you organize your life in this way, you are directing your time and energy rather than having someone else dictate your time for you. Try it out for a week and see how the MIT intervention impacts your productivity.

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