Randi Zuckerberg's new book shares her recipe for success: Pick three things to do a day

Randi Zuckerberg (Photo by Ben Arons)
Randi Zuckerberg (Photo by Ben Arons)

Randi Zuckerberg gets things done. She is a mom to two young boys, the CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media, she hosts a podcast on SirusXM, is a New York Times bestselling author, a Broadway star, a Tony voter, a Facebook veteran, and a speaker who is on the road approximately 100 days a year. In her new book Pick Three, out this week, Zuckerberg maps out exactly how she gets done what she gets done — and keeps her sanity intact.

Zuckerberg’s philosophy, in essence, is that the secret sauce for success — and feeling successful — is trimming down your daily to-dos. She writes in her book, “In order to set myself up for success, I know I can only realistically do three things well every day. So, every day when I wake up, I think to myself: Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness. Pick Three. I can pick a different three tomorrow, and a different three the following day. But today, I can only pick three.”

Zuckerberg spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle about the Pick Three philosophy, and how it’s helped her to focus on, and achieve, what matters most to her — and how it can help you to do the same.

Yahoo Lifestyle: Why is three the magic number?

Randi Zuckerberg: First of all, there are so many cultures that are built around the number three — but for me I think it’s all about having a manageable number of things so you can feel like you really accomplished something in your day. Anytime I ever make a to-do list, or feel like I am drowning in things, I say, “ok, here are the top three things I need to do,” it suddenly feels incredibly attainable and manageable. I’m all about ending your day and focusing on what you have done, and you have accomplished, rather than guilt over what you haven’t.

You have so many things to do — how do you pick what to focus on?

Sometimes you have the privilege of picking, sometimes it picks you. So I also wanted to make sure that Pick Three applied to both people who get to choose and people who don’t get to choose. I also think it really depends on the phase of your life that you’re in. No two people are the same, but in general there are certain life phases where maybe you’re early in your career and you’re working hard, or you’re starting a family. For me, I have my own company and I have two little children, so I’m always picking Work and Family — those are always on my list. There is one slot to rotate everything else in my life through. I think it’s ok to give yourself permission, depending on what phase of your life you’re in, to know that you have certain priorities that will change in time and to not feel guilty.

What about ‘Doing Nothing’ is that a category? The TV time, the reading magazines, the sitting on the couch.

Totally. The “me time.” First of all, I’m a huge fan of self-care, and I think the Friends bucket is a big catch-all for anything you do that’s fun and outside of work or taking care of other people. So depending on what you’re doing it can either fit into Fitness or Friends. But I’m a huge fan of taking time for yourself, I think when you focus on yourself and you set priorities and your boundaries for yourself, you show up better for everyone and everything else in your life.

Do you have a self-care practice that you engage in every evening before bed or every morning when you wake up?

I do. For me getting 10 minutes of a mini-workout in the morning is non-negotiable even if it’s just doing some half-assed planks and jumping jacks in my bedroom. Just to start off the day with something that is me time. I also have weekly things, like on Friday nights no matter what is going on in the weeks or how busy we are, we always have family dinner. That’s another non-negotiable in our week that we really look forward to and everyone knows is a top priority. I think [it’s] having those moments in your week that you know no matter how busy you are, you’re going to prioritize yourself or your family. Sometimes you need to block it out in your calendar or actually put some money down for an appointment for a manicure or a personal trainer to make sure you do it. But I think it’s incredibly important.

I know for me I spend a lot of time rearranging my schedule, or trying to make things fit, and then canceling and rescheduling. For women, particularly, there’s a guilt involved in trying to make everyone happy but also prioritizing yourself. How do you think about that, or do you not think about that?

I’ve spent so many years feeling guilt about so many things, even now it’s a constant battle — I’m working so much, I have my kids. I spent so many years feeling guilty like, ‘oh I’m not dedicating enough time with my friends, I’m not going to the gym enough, I’m not spending enough time with my kids, I’m spending too much time with my kids and not enough time at work.’ I actually have found that when you outwardly communicate, when you really just put a stake in the sand and let people in your life know what your priorities are, I have found that people understand and it helps to draw boundaries. So for me to come out and tell people my book is launching this month and that’s my priority, I’m sorry if I can’t do this thing for you, or show up at this meeting or this event — I think, once you start to tell people and to hold yourself accountable for what you’re picking and what your priorities are, it’s pretty amazing to see how other people in your life understand and fall in line with that.

Who are some people you really admire for how they handle any of these many categories?

I got a chance to interview about 50 people for the book and I left so many of those interviews feeling incredibly inspired. For me the category that I drop the most right now is Friends, sadly. I love my friends so much but I think when you have young children and you have your own business and you also have to sleep or take care of your health, unfortunately the thing that drops is prioritizing friends or other people in your life. So, I was really inspired by some of the people I spoke to for the Friends chapter of the book; like Susan McPherson who has been able to cultivate this incredible friend network that she’s then used to build a business. That woman never forgets anyone she’s ever met and she’s so great at keeping in touch with everyone and activating that network. I feel like that’s #goals right there because I don’t even have time to call members of my own family let alone cultivate a huge friend network. So that was inspiring.

I was also very, very inspired by a doctor that I interviewed for the book as well. He’s a pediatric organ transplant surgeon and he does kidney and liver transplants on young children. His work is literally life or death. So many of us act like our work is life or death and it’s not. But when his pager goes off in the middle of the night, he’s going to be saving someone’s life. And he talked about when you can’t pick Sleep because you’re getting buzzed in the middle of the night, and what it means when you have to tell your family that they’re a second priority. That was also just incredibly inspiring and eye opening to actually talk to someone whose career is life or death.

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

I spent a lot of years being pretty much the only woman in the room in the tech industry when I was working there. I spent a lot of time trying to blend in and be invisible and act like one of the guys and not stand out because I already felt like I stood out so much as the only woman, and I had a mentor who told me to be less interesting. She said, ‘if you’re less interesting then you’ll blend in.’ It took me years to realize that was the worst advice I’d probably ever received in my life. Because the things that make us interesting, that make us stand out are actually our competitive advantages in life. When we cultivate them we accomplish the things we’re most proud of. I’m glad that I got that bad advice because it’s really helped shape me and shape my professional career so far. So I encourage everyone to be as interesting as you can be.

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