The Rule Of Three: A Productivity Hack to Achieve Your Goals Right Now

written by Dan Silvestre
Productivity, Time Management

rule of three


The Rule of Three will transform how you work and make high-output effortless.

Lost the whole day to busywork? Didn’t complete anything meaningful today?

We’ve all been there.

Here’s the truth:

You have goals to achieve.

But it’s easy to get sidetracked from them and get stuck with the little things.

These distractions can be:

  • Replying to unimportant emails
  • New tasks you’re assigned
  • Noisy environments

The little things drain your energy and add no value to your time.

And what’s more:

They also prevent you from staying on track and being effective when moving forward.

If you want to check the boxes on your to-do list faster than ever before, you need The Rule of Three.

It’s a simple but powerful productivity system to complete meaningful work.

Every day. Every week. And every month.

And the good news?

You only need five minutes per day to use it.

What is the Rule of Three?

The Rule of Three is a productivity system that helps you achieve your goals and get things done.

Instead of trying to achieve everything, The Rule of Three focuses only on your 3 most important goals.

By wiring your brain to engage in fewer tasks, you increase your focus and produce better outputs.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks on your backlog, use The Rule of Three.

How to Use The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three was introduced by J.D Meier in “Getting Results the Agile Way,”.

rule of three


So, how do you get things done with the Rule of Three?

J.D Meier has explained the formula beautifully.

He suggested:

  • Pen down three outcomes for today
  • Three outcomes for the week
  • Three outcomes for the month
  • Three outcomes for the year

At the end of each timeframe, review your results. Find the possibilities of improvement and strategize again to grab more.

If you have a to-do list that’s cluttered and makes you frustrated, Use the Rule of Three to get through things with ease.

Here are some tips to use this hack.

  • Divide your goals

Instead of including items, concentrate on three priorities for the day. Write down what you want to achieve.

If you are a project manager and handling a big team, organize your goals specific to each member.

  • Write results-oriented entries

Your entries should be results-oriented.

If you want to get the outcomes, write ‘secure new client’ in your entry instead of ‘prepare proposal.’

  • Give your best

Work on your three actions when you have the most energy. Find your productive hours and devote your best to the most meaningful things.

  • Automate

Automate your secondary tasks like paying bills or sorting emails to save time.

  • Be prepared for unexpected things

If you can’t get your three tasks done in a day, don’t lose focus. Keep going and complete those unfinished tasks the next day. Consistency is the key to make the Rule of three work for you.

And if you finish your tasks earlier, do a victory dance.

Still feeling productive? Move on to the secondary tasks.

Likewise, you can use the Rule of Three to handle personal or family goals.

How to Use the Rule of Three to Master Productivity

You can apply this rule in your daily life to books your productivity.

You can begin by planning three outcomes for a day.

Then, use it for a week, then months. Sooner than later you won’t be able to live without it.

How can you use the Rule of 3 to help you attain profitable outputs? Here are some tips.

Evaluate Must, Should, & Could in Your Daily Tasks

Well, this is the guiding point that starts your journey to be more productive with the Rule of 3. List down your three Must items, and any of your Should and Could items.

Apply the Rule of 3 to bubble up what’s most important.

It will prioritize your actions against the outcomes you want to achieve.

Use a Paper Notebook or Productivity App

In this digital age, you can quickly create a memo on your iPhone.

There are many productivity apps available in your play store to jot down your big 3s with the schedule to achieve them.

From my experience, paper seems to be a great option.

Writing something out by hand will make you remember it more vividly.

Put the paper or sticky notes next to your computer so you can see it daily and stay on track.

Don’t Respond to Outside Events Until Needed

Most of the time, your actions depend on things that come to you out of the blue.

No matter how good you are in your work, some instances make you react and keep you off track.

In these situations, J.D Meier says: “either do it, queue it, schedule it, or delegate it.”

Keep Your Body’s Productivity Rhythm in Check

You can’t go on with the Rule of Three if you don’t personalize your productivity plans based on your mind and body’s unique preferences.

It would be ideal to work according to your own circadian rhythm and keep it in check.

Figure out the time of day you are most focused and reserve your creative hours for your top threes.

Add Micro-tasks to Fill Short Bursts of Spare Time

“First nail the three items you want to accomplish, and then bite off more.”J.D. Meier

Between high-intensity periods there is a pause in which no one can focus on tasks that demand full attention for long.

Why not make a list of some micro-tasks that you can tackle in-between times?

Fill in the gaps of free time by reading a useful article, archive important documents, or send emails.

Accomplishing these secondary tasks will add value and you’ll still be productive.

Be Forgiving if You Don’t Get Your 3 Tasks Done

If for some reason you don’t achieve your 3 goals for the day, be forgiving.

Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Maybe it was just a bad day, or you weren’t realistic. We all have those days.

The beauty of the Rule of Three lies in starting fresh every morning with laser focus and positive energy.

The Perks of Implementing the Rule of Three

The Rule of 3 will save you from getting into a workday without any direction.

It will help you learn to prioritize, focus, and achieve.

Below, I’ll tell you some benefits of implementing this productivity rule.

You Walk Into Your Day With a Plan

“Is your day by design or by default?” –J.D. Meier

For a lot of people,  productivity depends on the different things they face throughout the day.

These can be answering phone calls, checking emails, or a pending task your boss asked you to do.

Their schedule defaults to the events happening at the moment, from the beginning till the end of the day.

When you use the Rule of Three, you become the designer of your day.

Your days are designed with a plan that will add the most value to your work.

Keep You on Track

Do you have those moments when you suddenly snap back to reality after being distracted for 30 minutes? The amazing thing is you can’t even remember what you were doing before.

It always happens with me whenever I have a long to-do list for the day.

What I do is outline my 3 high-priority items and always turn to them whenever I get off track.

The Rule of Three gives a closer look at the bigger picture.

It’s a cumulative sketch of your results rendered according to your preferred time frame.

It’s Simple to Follow

Many people fail to follow productivity systems because they often get overly complicated.

The beauty in the Rule of Three is its simplicity.

You can easily incorporate it into your days (and weeks).

You just need to learn to prioritize things and plan to achieve your goal at the expected time interval.

Low-ranking Tasks Get Brushed Off

There must be a lot of unimportant things on your to-do list.

All they do is take up a lot of your time without any results in the end.

Don’t carry the burden of those low-ranking errands that never hit your Rule of Three. These things will only screw up your productivity.

Achieve 3 Big goals Instead of Smaller Ones

Rather than working on a bloated list of things, why not just focus on three topmost, value-adding ones?

Break your complex tasks into 3 manageable ones and pay attention to these first.

You Get Real Outcomes 

Spending time doing multiple things without any desired results isn’t a good measure of productivity.

Getting results with limited goals is the best measure.

By focusing on your results, you get clarity on your goals and learn to value how you spend your time.

The Rule of 3 will get you in the habit of asking “What’s the next best thing to do?”

You Become More Innovative

There is a wisdom in the Rule of Three that gives you a wide field vision so you can see the real scenario with an open mind.

The Rule of Three allows you to conquer your limited perspective for a situation and helps you think out of the box.

So, whenever you encounter any unpleasant task, find valuable new options by focusing on these 3 key points:

  1.   See your blind spots and try to figure out the other side of the story
  2.   Feed your head with reading and researching from a different perspective where you can see the flicker of certainty. It will increase your range of thinking.
  3.   Review your facts to gain insights by moving away from your normal sphere. Look for the facts instead of your opinions and listen to negative feedback. It will improve your accuracy

The Rule of Three and The Gifted Leaders

The wisdom in the Rule of 3 worked for many talented leaders, including Thomas Jefferson, Julius Caesar, Steve Jobs, Aristotle, and many others. It has been used in famous speeches to motivate people and improve their productivity. Steve Jobs has used the Rule of three in his ad success approach.

The Rule of 3 empowers productivity in writing, presentations, marketing, and office operations. It allows you to find your must out of should and could.

Noah Kagan is the founder of the famous app Sumo. He adopted the Rule of three technique in his successful venture of the app.

He has a master spreadsheet of different tasks in which he puts three things he wants to achieve for the day at the top. Then, he works regular hours to reach his 3s by removing distractions.

Noah Kagan doesn’t attend meetings, phone calls, and emails during his productive hours. He focuses his entire day on accomplishing his 3s for each task.

Why Does The Rule of Three Work? The Psychology Behind the Number 3

You might be thinking, why number 3?

It turns out your brain is wired to think in threes.

The brain loves patterns that help us avoid and solve problems. The number 3 has some great action patterns or archetypes that have a relationship with mirror neurons.

3 is always aligned with perfection and the rhythm of flowing momentum. It holds meaning, power, and energy.

We naturally look for and create patterns in everything we do. Number 3 is magical because it is the lowest figure that can create patterns in our minds.

For short term memory, our brain can only remember three things; maybe 5 if you are sharp.

Aristotle knew about the power of 3. He had Pathos, Ethos, and Logos. Remember that?

Some other examples like hip, hip, hurrah!,  Ready, Set, Go, the three little pigs, the three musketeers, Tic, Tac, Toe, and the list goes on and on.

The Rule of Three also applies to content creation as people remember concepts far more efficiently when the information is grouped into 3 sections or points.

Breaking points into three concepts give a clear structure to a blog post or any presentation.

The Rule of Three is the heart of your daily outcomes. It will help you nail three items every day and then bite off more. It is like a buffet of results.

Apply The Rule of Three to Be More Productive

The Rule of Three will make you the Boss of your goals and boost your productivity.

It is one of the best productivity hacks to maximize your time and gives you a laser-like focus on getting things done.

Put the number 3 in your memory box and see the magic happen in your life.

The key?

When you get distracted, remind yourself what you’re driving for.

If you aren’t getting results with the Rule of Three, you might be biting off more than you can chew.

Pick wisely and you’ll see the results.

Tags:: Hacks

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