Quick and Dirty Getting Things Done



If you’re backlogged and you want to get out, here’s a quick, low tech, brute force approach.

I’ve used it on my teams many times to help people get unstuck and to feel like they’re getting results.

Map It Out

Here are the steps:

  1. Queue.  On your whiteboard, first write your key backlog items.   This is your queue.   If you don’t have a whiteboard, substitute a sheet of paper.  The point is keep it visible and simple.
  2. To Do. Next to it, write down To Do.
  3. Rule of 3.  Under To Do, write the three most valuable things you’ll complete today.  Not tomorrow or in the future, but what you’ll actually get done today.

Bite off enough to feel good about what you accomplished when the day is done.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The Rule of 3

Each day for this week, grab a new set of three.  When you nail the three, grab more.  Again, only bite off as much as you can chew for the day.  At the end of the week, you’ll feel good about what you got done.

Why This Works

This is a technique I’ve seen work for many colleagues and it’s stood the test of time.  There’s a few reasons behind why this tends to work:

  • Whiteboards make it easy to step back, yet keep focus.
  • You only bite off a chunk at a time, so you don’t feel swamped.
  • As you get things done, you build momentum.
  • You have constant visual feedback of your progress.
  • Lesser priority things slough off.

The beauty is, results build momentum.  I’ve seen it time and again.


  1. Great tips. Very useful and simple to follow. My favorite part is at the end you said, “Result build momentum.” very true. It is so important to see result because that give us more gas to our motor.

    Thank you,
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  2. Good and practical discipline.
    It is hard to keep focus and be productive these days …. distractions are all over.
    There are great techniques for organizing this and organizing that. The problem with these techniques is they are too complex to implement or remember.
    Contrary, what you present here is super simple – thus sentenced to work 😉

    Keep It Simple And Stupid – on of my favorite mantras.

    Good practice – thanks for sharing!

  3. J.D., this is totally the way I tackle problems and things-to-do too. I find comfort in lists, if I don’t make a list I’m always scared I’ll forget something important. It’s a nice way to prioritise too and to give you an idea of what’s left as you check them off. 🙂

  4. Great strategy for busy times of year when things are swamped at work and home. Accomplishing a couple of things a day (actually getting them done) is better than making a small dent in a dozen areas.

  5. Yes! I love it when those lower priority items just fall by the way side. That’s where they belong anyway. Good tip. I think I’ll try it with the white board tomorrow.

  6. I like your Rule of 3 because it keeps it simple and manageable. You’re not asking people to immediately check everything off the list, you’re asking for 3 micro-movements towards a comment goal.

  7. @ Giovanna

    Thank you. Bootstrapping your results is really a key part of it. I’ve found that it works both ways, while results builds momentum, a lack of results spirals down. I want a lot of gas in my motor!

    @ Alik

    Now that is a powerful statement – “sentenced to work” … and I love it!

    @ Louisa

    So true! I used to avoid lists because I didn’t want to be a slave to them. Eventually, I realize the power of lists is they actually free you up.

    @ Gennaro

    I agree. Making headway on the vital few is one of the best ways to get your game on.

    @ Melissa

    It might sound subtle, but it’s 3 outcomes, not necessarily 3 action items. 3 results might be a better way to put it.

    @ Tom

    I used to have a hard time letting go, until I started asking “what’s the next best thing to do?” It’s such a cutting question. It’s rare that a lower priority item ends up the next best thing to do. It’s very sobering.

    @ Stacey

    That’s a very good way to put it … “3 micro-movements.” It’s those little steps that add up fast. It’s like leaping incremental hurdles.

  8. Good suggestions. Sometimes I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. I think your method can definitely help me stay on track. I’ll try to implement your strategy and see how well it works for me.

  9. @ Aleksandar

    I think the two secrets are energy and focus. The rule of 3 helps with focus and prioritization. As far as energy, I find that passion is the key and working on your strengths, instead of things that make you weak.

  10. I don’t have a whiteboard but when I find that I have a lot of tasks to do, I also write down the top few tasks for the day. I definitely like your suggestion for the Rule of 3. I’m going to try to see if it works better for me!!

  11. @ Evelyn

    I think of the The Rule of 3 like a sandwich. It’s a start and a finish for my day. At the start, it helps me chunk my work down. At the end, it’s easy for me to remember 3 key accomplishments.

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