The “Rule of Three” is the name given to that magical law of nature whereby things that come in threes appear to be just right. In ancient times, the Romans understood this rule and referred to it with the Latin maxim “omne trium perfectum” which means “everything that comes in threes is perfect”.
There is a lot written about the rule of three in terms of writing as well and how it helps force a writer to be concise.
One of the biggest challenges I face is prioritizing. It is becoming harder and harder to cut through the noise and find the fewest things possible to make the largest impact.
Part of the reason this is increasingly difficult is due to the fact that information has never been more readily available. There is a constant stream of ideas, data, and examples to compare to.
The rule of three is an excellent forcing function to help you prioritize and focus.
How does the rule of three work?
You take a list of ideas, initiatives, meetings, and any other activity that takes your time. List them out and then rank order them.
Now delegate, ignore, or shelf anything below 1-3.
Sounds easy, but in practice, it is really difficult. You will find that number 4 is valid and needs to be completed. However, you must have the discipline to only focus on 3 things at once. Nature has proven that groupings of three provide balance and value.
How often do you prioritize?
The answer to this question will largely depend on your lifestyle, work load and responsibilities.
I personally prioritize weekly (and sometimes daily).
How big can the three things be?
I obsess about the rule of three. I will walk through my thinking but feel free to tweak this as you see fit.
- 3 initiatives
- 3-week sprints
- 3 subtasks per sprint
Example from my notion board
Each of these priorities should be able to be completed in 3 weeks (at most). Each priority should have 3 check-in points to ensure you are on track.
For example, my publish 2021 Project Launch plan would look something like this.
- Write the plan
- Edit the plan
- Publish the plan
There is a lot written about the rule of 3 for writing and how it helps you focus and be concise. I see the rule of 3 applying to everything in life. If you are feeling stressed out, like there isn’t enough time to do everything on your personal/business list, you owe it to yourself to try to focus on 3 things that will have the biggest impact.
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