The Power of the 3-Item To-Do List

Andrew Merle
Mar 20, 2016 · 3 min read

Want to see your productivity skyrocket?

Limit your daily to-do list to the top 3 most important things you want to accomplish for the day.

Do this same process at the beginning of every week for the week ahead.

It’s that simple.

This habit turbocharges your productivity because it forces you to prioritize the most significant things you want to achieve, and then causes you to have laser-like focus in getting them done.

Best-selling author and productivity guru Chris Bailey writes extensively about this technique, referred to as “the Rule of 3”, in his new book The Productivity Project. Bailey says that out of the thousands of productivity tactics he has experimented with, the Rule of 3 has emerged as one of the absolute best ways to positively impact your work and life on a daily basis.

As he says, “having just three items to focus on throughout the day and week will help you stay centered and accomplish more, even on days when everything hits the fan.”

In order to make this process work, it is essential that you write out these 3 main focus areas before cluttering your mind with “reactive” tasks such as checking email, voicemail, or social media. It is vital to prioritize what you want to achieve before being inundated with other peoples’ needs.

It’s also a good idea to reference your calendar for the day and week to see how much time you’ll have to devote to your top tasks, and possibly shift around your meetings and commitments in order to concentrate on what really matters.

As you think about putting the Rule of 3 into practice, Bailey suggests just starting on a daily basis in order to quickly realize how effective it can be, and then adding the weekly exercise from there. And make sure that your top 3 items are challenging yet also realistic and achievable in order stay motivated and ride the momentum from getting them done.

After you list out your 3 top items to accomplish, it is okay to jot down additional small tasks to take care of during the day (such as remembering to RSVP for a party, writing a thank you note, or dropping off mail at the post office). What’s important is that you prioritize and focus your energy on your top 3 items, and tackle smaller tasks as time permits from there. And that you measure your productivity based on how successful you were at accomplishing your main 3 things.

As Bailey says, “To accomplish more and spend time on your highest-impact tasks, you have to act on them on a daily basis.”

The Rule of 3 is one of the best ways to do exactly that.

If you enjoyed this post, please hit the “recommend” button below and share this story. I also love reading all comments. Thanks!

Andrew Merle writes about good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Read more at and follow him on Twitter.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Andrew Merle

Written by

I write about healthy living. Subscribe to my email list at

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade