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Win, Place, Show

Every day you place a bet on yourself. You may not feel like it, but your betting that today you can get through the day’s trials. That could be traffic, work, your wife’s complaining, your brother’s health problems, whatever.

The biggest problem is we make it an all or nothing bet on a decathlon, or more, of things. We have a list of things we’re going to do it every day. We tend to succeed in completing the whole list less often than we do. Don’t finish the list you lost the bet or, if you don’t care that you didn’t, there was no real bet, no actual risk.

Of late I have been trying once again to adapt the most important things I need to do today method. I don’t remember where I first encountered it, but I believe he was in a Zig Ziglar. speech that I had on CD. I’ve done on and off some. In my file cabinet is a stack of index cards from days with green check marks are red axes on things I’ve done. Some days I’ve writen the list first thing in the morning and others the night before. The count has varied from the top 3 things to the top 5.

The most recent round has been limited to 3. Listening to Organize Tomorrow Today inspired this round and its last two predecessors. The book provides 7 ideas to make you more productive and successful. The title idea is the first one given and is a version of the three most important things method. From here on out I’ll call it OTT.

The recommends you write the list the day before. They claim between lunch and 3 in the afternoon is the sweet spot. You’re write the 3 most important things for you to do tomorrow. You mark one the most important after writing the list. I tend to know my most important item before I write the list. The book’s examples also time bounds by indicating a planned time of completion. I did that in the past, but not in the current iteration.

They recommended you not try all 7 ideas, just once pick one. Once you succeed in applying it 90 of the time over the past 90 days you add another. For my purposes I measure on 91 days because it’s an even 13 weeks calendar.

I’ve had different spreadsheets to track success, but I keep looking for different ways to score organizing tomorrow. Planning alone isn’t enough if you don’t do the tasks, but is finishing the must do item enough? What if you got the other two most imporant done, but not the most do item? What is success and is it digital, yes or no, or analog, depending on both planning and how much you did.

For some reason today day I thought about horse racing. I think it was because I was listening to The Motivation Myth again as I was leaving Pennsylvania to drive to Georgia. The author talks about his grandfather buying a race horse. After a while where the horse had no success, he placed in a race. Jeff refers to it as second place instead of the classic racing name of placing. That was the little hook I needed. What if trying to do three things was a little like betting on a horse.

My system for mapping horse racing’s win, place, or show may seem counter intuitive. If you complete only your most important item you show. The logic behind this is not completing your most important item should keep you off the podium, but only doing one of three things is just going to show. Completing your most important item and one of the other two is a place. You got on the podium and did more than the minimum required to get there. Finally, if you do all three you win, which should be straightforward enough.

My system adds another wrinkle. I have a more complex system where I score OTT plus haibts I’m working to development. That scoring implements the idea of improving one percent a day. I get a full 1% upgrade for the day if I do all the habits for the day plus my OTT . To obtain a score for each item, I divide 1% by the number of habits I am working on plus 4. Why plus 4? Because showing counts double. I get that amount of improvement for each successful task. If I don’t, I lose the same amount. In the case where something is done, but not quite according to plan, I get a 0. I don’t fall back, but I don’t improve.

What is not as planned for OTT? In the book the authors say if you’re close to the deadline for one of the three and think you won’t finish, dedicate a minute right then to doing. That’s my zero. For example, almost every day my must do is “write 1500 words of fiction”. I tend to do this through a series of writing sprints of 10 to 20 minutes that I can fit in my day. If it gets late in the afternoon and I have gotten no sprints in, I do a 1 minute writing sprint, about 30–40 words. That’s a zero in place.

When it comes to OTT when a category is at 0 or 1 you can score a 1 in higher categories, but if you score a –1 in a category, you can only score a –1 in those above it.

My latest habit tracking period started on September 15. I back tracked this score. I’ve won four of the seven days. The other two I failed to even place, although only one of those was a 0. I don’t have enough experience to recommend this method, but maybe it’ll inspire you to try some new tricks to getting things you want done complete.

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