The rule of 3
So how do you work on your important tasks instead of your easier urgent matters like an overflowing e-mail inbox? You've already set your goals and intentions for the upcoming months in the form of OKRs. Let’s now disucss how we'll get there:
How it works
There are a lot of task management methods and tools which beautifully organize your work but, what all of them don't do is help you slow down, focus and set clear intentions.
I've found that the best way of doing that is through the Rule of 3. The rule is simple: before you start working, decide a maximum of three things you want to accomplish by the end of the week or day. One or two tasks are likely even better because it's simpler to focus on less during the day.
It's actually recommended to start doing this daily and move on to weekly or every two weeks afterward. That’s because the value of the rule of 3 typically becomes clear quite rapidly when you do it daily. I've started with the weekly or bi-weekly version because it’s the appropriate interval to reflect on your goals. I strongly recommend also trying it daily. It's very enlightening and freeing to know exactly what 3 things you'll want to do today because you immediately see what type of seemingly urgent matters might sneakily take priority over it.
You've got the gist of it now. But if you're curious you can find some tips and answers to questions in the drop-down below. These are paraphrased tips from Chris Bailey from his book “The Productivity Project”. I highly recommend the book if you want to learn more about this technique and working effectively overall.
- Think about when, where, and how you’re going to accomplish each item throughout the day. Studies show this makes acting out the goal easier and more automatic, and that it’s especially helpful for carrying out unpleasant tasks.
- In addition to deciding on the three main things you want to accomplish, select other small tasks you intend to accomplish over the course of the day. The three things you intend to accomplish may be your primary focuses for the day, but there will almost definitely be other smaller tasks you need to accomplish, too. Keep in mind your constraints.
- Start with just the daily ritual. Once you feel how effective the Rule of 3 is over the course of the day, you’ll jump at the chance to use it on a weekly basis, too. Trust me on this one.
- When planning, keep your highest-impact tasks in the back of your mind. And if you decide to try the rule in your personal life (which is worth a shot, especially when you have a lot of personal goals), keep in mind how connected your three accomplishments are with your values.
- “Set two alarms during your workday. When they go off ask yourself: Do you remember what your three daily goals are? Do you remember your three weekly goals? If you do, are you on track to achieve them?”
- At the end of the day and week, reflect on how realistic your three accomplishments were. Were they too small and did you overshoot them? Or were they too large and intimidating? Did you have a good understanding of how much time, attention, and energy you would have to accomplish the three items? Reflecting on how realistic you were will let the rule help you more and more over time.”
- Why the magic number 3? Three things is very easy to keep top of mind, without having to write it down or look it up. I could rattle off my three outcomes in the hall. This especially helped when doing prioritization on the fly or to really keep myself on track. Three may seem like an arbitrary number on the surface, but it’s large enough to fit the main things you want to accomplish, and small enough to make you think hard about what’s important. The rule also helps you work smarter because by deciding what you intend to accomplish, you consequently decide what you don’t intend to accomplish. And since the rule focuses on the goals you want to accomplish instead of how much you get done, it’s much more in line with what productivity is all about.
- More examples:
- Example 1:
- 1. Plan for and buy all Christmas presents
- 2. Completely disconnect from work for birthday plans
- 3. Pack; travel home for Christmas
- Example 2:
- 1. Finalize the “Laying the Groundwork” section of book and send to my editor
- 2. Write and load blog posts for the month
- 3. Create mind maps (a graphical way of thinking out ideas and concepts) for two speaking engagements in January”