You can’t do everything—work/family/friends/you. At least not every single day.

By Randi Zuckerberg
Illustration by Julie Houts

Contrary to popular belief, I truly believe we can have it all. But life is not like Burger King: We can’t always have it our way. 

I wasted many of my early years feeling guilty for not having achieved all my goals. It wasn’t until I received some wonderful advice from a wise older adult that I learned guilt and “wanting it all” was nothing more than a stress-inducing, ulcer-forming myth—and a barrier to success. That advice? Basically, to embrace being “well lopsided,” which means letting your strengths and passions balance out your not-as-strong skill sets. That’s how my mantra was born: Work. Sleep. Family. Fitness. Friends. Pick Three. 

I now had permission (from myself) to prioritize three out of those five things every day. And I could choose different ones each day. The goal was to balance out over the long term, not just in any 24-hour period. It has helped me consistently accomplish my goals by accepting what I can and cannot do. 

It has also completely redefined how I view success and happiness. Many of us, especially parents, are sitting on way too much guilt. Guilt if we have a career, guilt if we don’t have a career. Guilt about not being perfect, especially when everyone else’s lives look so perfect on social media. But once I gave myself permission to focus solely on certain things, one at a time, I started feeling a lot less guilty. When I travel for business, I am picking Work. When I’m home, I choose Family and Friends. When I work too much, I also choose Sleep and Fitness because I know short-shrifting those two will eventually bite me in the butt.

We all have different situations and challenges. Some of us raise children as single parents or work multiple grueling jobs. Many maneuver through the difficult hands that life has dealt us. But whatever situation we find ourselves in, there is one common denominator: We all feel incredible pressure to balance everything we need, have and want—and to get it perfectly right. My goal is to relieve us of that pressure. 

I’ve created an abbreviated version of Pick Three to share with you. Hopefully, you’ll see why it has become my personal life force. And will become yours too. Just keep in mind these few basic rules.

Stick to three.

While it’s incredibly tempting to try for more (we’re an increasingly multitasking culture, after all), your goal should always be quality over quantity. Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness. Pick Three. And there should be no fear of buyer’s remorse. You can always choose a different combination tomorrow.

Lose the guilt!

You can’t always do everything well. Give yourself permission to be great at the three things you’ve picked and try not to waste one precious second feeling guilty about the things you didn’t pick

Make it awesome.

There’s no point to Pick Three if you’re not going to kick total butt on your three things. Do as amazing a job with them as you possibly can.

Track your choices.

Like any system that holds you accountable, it works best if you jot down your picks each day and refer back to make sure you’re hitting all five categories roughly the same amount over the course of time. Whether you want to track it on paper, a calendar or your phone, logging your daily choices will give you a sense of the broader overall picture of your life, and of where you may need to shift a bit more effort.

For me P3 has had the greatest impact by far on my career. When I have an especially busy work schedule, I can be unapologetic about prioritizing it, because I know soon I’m going to turn around and pick Family. And when I do, I am going to be super present and all in. Just remember, these are my personal top five. Yours may be totally different.

I’d love to hear about your personal P3 journey. How does it feel to prioritize your life day by day? Post updates with the hashtag #PickThree so I can follow along with you and champion your progress. Let’s live lopsided together! 

Randi Zuckerberg is an entrepreneur, investor, best-selling author and mom. She is also hoping to become an expert at unplugging.