Three priorities a week, max
As I was getting ready to go to bed in order to wake up in time to make my 6:40 a.m. flight, I was rolling my one remaining priority for the week around in my head. I was thinking to myself, "Two down, one to go." And I realized I have been using a construct of "Three priorities a week, max" for a long time.
Now, I do a lot more than three things a week. But on Monday mornings, as I'm going through my daily information routine, I usually carve out a few minutes to make sure I have my priorities for the week firmly lodged in my brain.
I limit myself to three as I don't think you can have more than three "highest priorities" at any given time. When I start the week, I make a clear mental commitment to get these priorities (or P1′s in Zynga speak) done. Each day when I wake up, I think about what I need to do to get closure on these priorities.
Some weeks I have three, others I have one or two. I always have at least one. And they are always important. Occasionally I can't get one done and it rolls over into the next week, but once something becomes a P1 it stays a P1 until it gets done. And I can never have more than three P1′s. And they should all be able to be completed by the end of the week. But most importantly, they are clearly defined and easily explained (e.g. if you walk up to me and ask me what my P1s are for this week, I should be able to recite them without thinking.)
While I have plenty of things that I'm working on that have a much longer arch than one week, I find this weekly rhythm to be very grounding. I have a clear sense of accomplishment on a weekly basis, I clear the decks of big priorities, and I regularly tackle hard stuff that just needs to get done.
I also have many more than three things that I complete each week, including things that regularly come up that are as important (or even more important) that whatever I've defined as my P1s for that week. But I don't shuffle the priorities around - by having the big ones for the week set at the beginning of the week, I have a clear set to focus on whenever I need to re-ground myself.
One more to go. I've got two days to get it done. And I've got plenty of time on my remaining two plane flights to knock it off.