Life is overwhelming.
In a world that’s always making you feel like you have to be on the go 24/7, it’s essential to slow down and reassess.
Recently, I had a conversation with my partner about how I could better utilize my time. I told him that for the last few months, I have felt more stressed and anxious than I have ever felt. My to-do list was over-flowing, I felt like my time throughout the day was significantly limited, and on top of that, my productivity levels were decreasing.
At the start of August, I picked up a few new books for my August reading list. One of the books was titled, “The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey.
I needed help — I felt like I was losing momentum within my work, the quality of my writing was declining, my YouTube videos were lagging, and my brain was tired. I devoted a few days to read the book and eliminated all other ones, I wanted to focus entirely on the concept of productivity, and I wanted to see if there would be any significant changes that I could utilize — and eventually share.
And guess what? I hit the jackpot. I discovered The Rule of 3.
What is The Rule of 3?
First introduced by J.D. Meier, the innovation director of business programs at Microsoft, Meier’s intention was to provide a resource for everybody to master productivity, time management, and work-life balance.
In Chris Bailey’s book, he utilized Meier’s Rule and described it as the best technique to work deliberately and with intention every day.
I couldn’t agree more. The Rule, while simple, is the one thing that has helped me get my mojo back.
If you’re struggling to remain focused on your goals throughout the day, or if you feel like your productivity is hindered and you’re continually piling on today’s to-do list on the top of tomorrow’s — this is for you.
The rules are simple.
- At the start of every day, think about what three things you would like to have accomplished by the end of the day. Write them down — 3 main things.
- Continue doing this every day — and every week.
Chris Bailey says that those three things you identify will then become the entire focus for the day and week ahead.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Chris Bailey had the opportunity to interview J.D. Meier, and he asked him why he chose three days and three weekly accomplishments.
I found this particularly interesting because if you’re anything like me, your to-do lists are typically long. You write everything that you want to accomplish down; sometimes, I even go so far as to jot down what I would like to have done by next week — just in case I magically get done with the other 47 things I already have planned for myself.
“I originally focused on the Rule of 3 because when my manager asked me what the team achieved for the week, he didn’t want a laundry list. He was willing to listen to 3 compelling outcomes.”
Then, Meier asked his own team members what they were going to be focusing on for the day, and he too found himself not wanting to hear more than three outcomes.
“I found that three things were very easy to keep top of my 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.”
Bottom line? Focusing on three accomplishments will help you make progress in the right direction, and compound your efforts in a significantly more profound way.
I thought three was too little. I tried doubling it. I didn’t see any changes, and I still struggled with focus. I went down to 5.
Sure, I was able to get them all done— but I was still struggling; my day always felt controlled by my to-do list. And, I was sacrificing quality.
Three was perfect. Three made me feel like I had a sense of control over my day, my week, and my overall life. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t take a break if I wanted to, I slowly stopped feeling so overwhelmed.
And most importantly? I felt more accomplished.
Working On the Right Things at the Right Time
If there’s one thing you can learn from this method, it’s the power of intentions.
The simple fact that you only have three things to focus on allows you to take all of your energy and direct it all on the right things at the right time. It gives you clarity and a vision to strive towards.
You’re not going to use up one of those slots for something that isn’t that important; you’re going to utilize it for the things you know will put you ahead.
Without vision, your days can go off in any which way. You might feel like you got a lot done, but none of it will be as meaningful as working on the things that matter the most to you.
Rather than waiting for luck, working yourself to death, start carving out the time and energy you have, and spend it wisely on the things that matter to you.
How it Will Benefit You
I like to think of this Rule as the foundation in which you will build the discipline to solely focus on the things that will benefit you and help you reach your goals — faster.
Instead of constantly getting overwhelmed by all of your tasks, you’re going to start getting intentional about the three things that you want to accomplish — daily, weekly, and monthly.
By utilizing this method, you’ll be able to step back to determine what your most productive tasks are at the beginning fo the day, and you’ll know where you need to invest the majority of your time, energy, and attention.
It’s time to work smarter — not harder.
Despite all of your best intentions — life has its own clock. Sometimes emergencies come up; conflicts arise at random points throughout the day, I know that personally, I struggle to get through my to-do list not because of me but because of the things that simply come up.
Setting three things to accomplish will allow you to feel significantly freer throughout the day. Instead of tackling endless lists and feeling dissatisfied or unaccomplished, you’ll start to feel more centered, and more In control.
How to Start
We’re keeping it simple.
In “The Productivity Project”, Chris Bailey emphasizes that to accomplish more and spend time on your highest-impact tasks, you have to act on them daily.
So, before you check your phone first thing in the morning or turn the news on — sit down with a pen and paper and fast-forward to the end of the day.
Write down the three major things you would like to accomplish by dinner time — or whenever your workday ends.
The key is to have a clear mind, don’t allow anything to upset you or negatively impact you. The three things that you’re doing are supposed to benefit you in the long run.
J.D. Meier recommends thinking of those three things in “wins,” so think about the milestones you would like to overcome, and the successes that you want to see.
At the end of your day, take some time to reflect. Did you get your three wins? If not — were they realistic? Did you end up going the extra mile because they were too small?
When I first started setting mine, I overshot. Significantly. It took me a few weeks to find a nice balance that was realistic but still pushed me.
Ending your day with reflection is what will allow you to build momentum.
You’re able to visually see how much work you put in, and that gratitude you feel will give you a sense of accomplishment. And, if you didn’t complete all three tasks — it’s okay. You’re learning. You might need to bite off smaller chunks or try a different approach.
Having three accomplishments under your belt is a pragmatic way to feel good about results.
“Simplicity makes it easier to evolve and innovate and deal with complexity.” — J.D. Meier
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