Get More Done With the Rule of 3

How to take on a big task using the Rule of 3.

The “rule of three to do list” is a technique that can help you get more done. It helps you break tasks into manageable chunks, so that you can focus on the most important ones first.

Book cover, rule of three by Chris bailey.

In the last few months of 2016, my productivity skyrocketed. The first spark was dedicating a few weeks to meticulously tracking my time and thereby determining where it was being squandered. It was a really beneficial workout.

The discovery of the “Rule of 3” as a means of working intentionally rather than reactively through my day was the second spark.

What is the 3rd Rule?

While the notion has been explored in different blogs and publications, author Chris Bailey explains it as follows: “Decide what three things you want to do by the end of the day at the beginning of each day, before you start working.” Do the same thing at the beginning of each week.”

It’s a basic notion that has the potential to change the game. While it’s really rather simple to implement, I’ll go over why it’s so crucial to do so, as well as some fast ideas for getting the most out of the Rule of 3.

Let’s take a moment to rethink what we mean by productivity before we get started.

Productivity Redefined in a Hurry

People often associate productivity with the quantity of work completed – a certain number of tasks. The more items on the to-do list that have been crossed off, the more productive a day has been.

Simply said, it is a bad method to measure your productivity.

It implies that all of the items in your list are of equal worth, which is simply not true.

What good does it do if 14 of 15 items on your to-do list are ticked off but the one most critical item stays unchecked?

Asking yourself a simple inquiry at the end of each day: “Did I get done what I meant to?” is a better way to approach your productivity. “Productivity isn’t about doing more things — it’s about doing the right things,” Bailey says.

There are always nice things to check off your to-do list, but improved productivity necessitates prioritizing the most important tasks. The things that will help you get closer to your objectives with the most leverage and return on investment.

To figure out what that stuff is, you must first understand the outcomes that must occur in order for you to have a successful and profitable day, week, month, or year. Then you must consider what actions you may do to offer the greatest value to your organization or business, and then implement those actions.

Getting articles ready, putting up podcast guests and producing the program, and writing articles myself, for example, are the things that provide the greatest value to my work on the AoM website and podcast. In such cases, the consequences include having outstanding articles ready to press “Publish,” booking fantastic guests and preparing top-notch programs, and delivering articles to my editor.

If my main, most essential goal for the day is to complete writing an article, but I get sidetracked by less important items on my to-do list because they’re simpler to work on and check off, I won’t be able to say yes to the question “Did I accomplish what I set out to do?”


To restate, productivity isn’t measured by the number of activities completed; it’s measured by whether you performed the correct things and completed the critical, targeted tasks that will create value to your company.

The Advantages of Using the Rule of Three

“Did you plan your day or did it just happen?” J.D. Meier (J.D. Meier)  

Rather of maintaining a running list of 10, 20, or even more items on your daily to-do list, or worse, going into a work day blind and without direction, there are a slew of advantages to jotting down the three most critical things you want to do and giving them your whole attention and energy.

Rather of reacting, you work purposefully. Many individuals operate depending on the information they get during the day; their schedules are set by whatever occurs and comes in from the minute they sit down at their desk: phone calls, emails, and a supervisor reminding them of anything they neglected to accomplish. When you apply the Rule of 3, on the other hand, you plan your day around your job title and what will provide the greatest value to your company. Wouldn’t you rather have Office Firefighter on your business card than Office Firefighter? Don’t start your day without a plan; it’s a certain way to be ruled by outside forces rather than what matters most.

When you stray off track, it keeps you on track. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had those days when you wake up and realize you’ve been sidetracked for 30 minutes and can’t remember what you were working on before. When you write down three high-priority tasks, though, you can always refer to them to see what happened and what has to happen for the remainder of the day.

You’ll really do it since it’s straightforward. One issue with productivity programs is that they can become unnecessarily sophisticated. I’m always overwhelmed when I think of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. The Rule of Three is so easy that you’ll use it every day (and week). All you have to do now is figure out what the three most essential things are (an ability that comes with time and repetition).

Tasks that aren’t vital are sloughed off. There will undoubtedly be items on your to-do list that aren’t really significant. Rather of dragging those things over from day to day and week to week, you’ll learn that if they never make it to your Rule of 3, they may not need to be completed at all, or someone else is better prepared. Don’t allow the little things get in the way of your productivity.

Ensures that your supervisors and teams are not overburdened. Why not simply email your boss the three most significant, value-adding things you’re doing instead of a long list of things you’re doing? When you show what you’re doing and communicate favorable outcomes, they’re considerably more inclined to pay attention. They won’t be impressed by the simple duties you’re supposed to do, but they will be impressed if you can show them three things every day and week that provided significant value to the organization.


The same is true for groups. You don’t want to assign a product launch team a hundred tasks to complete in a single day if you’re in control of them. You’ll be lot more likely to see consistent and positive progress throughout the project if you provide three core outcomes, no matter how tiny they need to be to be done in a day, and your team won’t feel overburdened and weighed down.

How to Make the Most of the Rule of Three

The Rule of 3 is simple in concept: jot down the three most critical tasks you need to get done that day, as stated at the top. However, there are a few pointers to provide in order to get the most of it.

Use the Rule of 3 not just on a daily basis, but also on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. The Rule of Three, as I’ve said, can be applied to a lot more than simply your day. Use it to plan your week and month by establishing the three most essential outcomes for each time period, then arranging your weeks and days based on the smaller activities that must occur in order for those objectives to be realized. Because of the broader perspective (in my experience, it’s simply simpler to think of things that need to be done today), envision yourself on a Friday afternoon or at the end of the month, and ask yourself what would cause the greatest agony if it wasn’t done.

Use a notebook made of paper. You may utilize this technique digitally, as you do with everything linked to productivity these days. Make a note on your iPhone, scribble it down in Evernote, or anything else comes to mind. However, based on my research and personal experience with the Rule of 3, it seems that paper is the best option. Writing it down on a real piece of paper makes it more remember and helps it stick in your mind. You may keep it on your desk next to your computer so that you can see it at all times and remain on track, rather than losing it among a hundred online tabs or in your phone, which is lost in the black hole of your pocket.

Make your plans the day before or the night before. While you may absolutely use the Rule of 3 when you first arrive at work, I’ve found that knowing what I’m going to accomplish and being able to get right in helps me feel less worried and more at ease. Why not simply get started instead of wasting 20-30 minutes of your new energy on planning? To do this, I’ve started spending the final 15-20 minutes of each day preparing the Rule of 3 for the following day, as well as taking time to…

Reflect. Consider how you performed at the end of the day (and the week, month, and year). Were your objectives reasonable? Were you too ambitious or underly ambitious? Over time, you’ll discover what you can and can’t achieve in a certain amount of time (doing a time tracking inventory can help you learn faster!).


Be adaptable. If you finish your three tasks, don’t simply call it a day and say, “Well, I’ve done what I needed to, now it’s time to slack!” “First nail the three tasks you want to do, and then bite off more,” advises J.D. Meier in Getting Results the Agile Way. Also, be forgiving if you didn’t complete your three chores. Perhaps you weren’t being realistic. Perhaps it was just a lousy day. We’ve all experienced them. Even if an item has to be carried over, the Rule of 3 allows you to start new every morning.

React as soon as possible. No matter how well-planned our days are, our behaviors are occasionally influenced by events that occur unexpectedly. Perform a fast triage in certain situations. “Do it, queue it, schedule it, or delegate it,” Meier adds, referring to David Allen. To figure out if you should do it or file it away, ask yourself, “What’s the greatest thing — the one that will add the most value to my career and organization — to do next?”

Make a Rule of Three for yourself. Create another Rule of 3 list (daily, weekly, etc.) for your personal/home/family objectives and to-dos after you’ve mastered the Rule of 3 for work. Rule the world by nailing your job life, nailing your home life, and nailing your personal life!

I can tell when I haven’t planned out my Rule of 3 for the day. My productivity falls, as does my motivation, which is quite unexpected. I’ve discovered that being able to do three critical activities in a day, even if they’re micro-tasks (like writing an email) in support of a bigger project, can be a major driver of feeling fulfilled and successful. Rather than letting your day unfold naturally, take measures to plan it ahead of time by following the Rule of 3.

I can tell when I haven’t planned out my Rule of 3 for the day. My productivity falls, as does my motivation, which is quite unexpected. I’ve discovered that being able to do three critical activities in a day, even if they’re micro-tasks (like writing an email) in support of a bigger project, can be a major driver of feeling fulfilled and successful. Rather than letting your day unfold naturally, take measures to plan it ahead of time by following the Rule of 3.


Chris Bailey’s Productivity Project J.D. Meier’s Getting Results the Agile Way



The “rule of three psychology” is a principle that has been studied by psychologists for years. The rule states that people are more likely to complete tasks in sets of three.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Rule of 3 in life?

A: There is no set rule on how many items you should have in each category of life. For example a person can choose to be successful and wealthy, or they could choose to be healthy and happy with just one item out of those two categories. If you want more information about this topic feel free to visit

How to use the Rule of 3 to get more done and regain control of your day?

A: The Rule of 3 is a productivity technique in which you set your intentions to accomplish three things at once. For example, if you want to exercise during the day, then set the intention for when you wake up and before bedtime. However, it does not mean that those are the only times or days where you will be working out; instead just one of them should always have this as part of their routine.

How do you use the rule of three?

A: The rule of three is a powerful tool in mathematics and logic. It states that if one thing happens, there are two possible outcomes. For example, if you flip a coin and it lands either heads or tails the outcome would be two unique possibilities.

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