I went to the cinema last night to watch The Mule starring Clint Eastwood. At the end of the film, Eastwood says something along the lines of, “money can buy a lot of things but it can’t buy time”.

This got me thinking about all those days where I lost time and didn’t achieve what I set out to do.

If this sounds familiar, then you may benefit from implementing the Rule of 3 into your work and personal life.

The Rule of 3 is a productivity technique that focuses on achieving three meaningful outcomes every day, week and year.

It originates from J.D. Meier’s book on time management, Getting Results the Agile Way.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write down three things you want to accomplish today.
  2. Then, write down the three things you want to accomplish this week.
  3. Finally, jot down three things you want to accomplish this year.

At the end of each day, take some time to reflect and review your outcomes.

Was today a good day? Did you achieve what you set out to do? If not, reflect on the reasons why.


Getting More Done with the Rule of 3

Work smarter

The beauty of the Rule of 3 is its simplicity.

Instead of starting each day with a long list of unachievable to-dos, you’ll prioritise the three that you want to achieve today above everything else.

The outcomes you set are entirely up to you.

Meier recommends four things when implementing the Rule of 3.

  1. At the start of each day, decide what you want to focus on.
  2. Remind yourself throughout the day what your three outcomes are.
  3. Pay attention to how long you estimate a task will take compared to how long it actually takes. Your estimates should improve over time.
  4. Pat yourself on the back if you achieve what you set out to do that day, week and year.

Benefits of Implementing the Rule of 3

  • You work deliberately not reactively throughout your day.
  • It improves your mental focus and concentration and helps keep you on track.
  • It’s simple enough that you’ll actually do it.
  • Unimportant tasks are removed.
  • It prevents you/your team from getting overwhelmed.

With the Rule of 3, you make a commitment to getting three things done each day — that might not sound like a lot but over a year that’s 1,095 things.

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Become the Most Productive Person in the Office

“Productivity isn’t about doing more things — it’s about doing the right things.”

Chris Bailey, Author and Productivity Consultant

The most productive person in the office probably isn’t the person who works the most hours. In fact, recent studies show that working fewer hours can actually boost your productivity and happiness.

The Rule of 3 empowers you to be the most productive person in the office because you follow through on the things you set out to do.

This popular productivity technique has been adopted by business owners including Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo.

Noah has a master spreadsheet of every single task and puts the three things he wants to achieve today at the top.

He works normal hours and removes distractions such as phone calls, meetings and emails. His day is focused on getting the three things done.

If It’s Good Enough for Steve Jobs, Then…

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was another famous advocate of the Rule of 3. He applied it to nearly every presentation and product launch.

In 2007, he introduced three products — a new iPod, a phone and an Internet communications device.

Then in 2010, he revealed the iPad would be available in three models and in 2011 the iPad 2 was described as “thinner, lighter and faster”.


The Rule of 3 x Pomodoro Technique

You can combine the Rule of 3 with the Pomodoro Technique.

Here’s a quick refresher of how it works:

  • Choose a task to be accomplished.
  • Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes (you can use an app like Tameday to do this).
  • Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a tick on your sheet of paper
  • Take a short break of 5 minutes or so.
  • When you have four ticks on your piece of paper, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

The Pomodoro Technique can help you complete your three outcomes daily. Depending on the task, it should take between 2-4 Pomodoros each day.

If a task looks like it might take more than 2-3 hours, consider splitting it up. So, start using the Rule of 3 today and you’ll improve your productivity in no time.

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Related: Achieve Your Goals Using Warren Buffett’s Productivity Hack