Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that need to be done that you feel paralyzed? It’s hard to know where to start because everything needs attention. I used to get this way all the time — and sometimes still do — but I’ve developed a trick I call the Rule of Three that has changed my world and my productivity. It helps me keep my priorities straight and makes me more productive. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes per day but has the potential to be life-changing.
- Get paper and a pen.
- Set a timer for five minutes.
- Write down every possible “to-do” you can think of, regardless of whether it can be done today. The goal is to get it out of your head so it will stop causing you stress.
- When the timer goes off, take a few minutes to look at your list.
- If there’s anything on the list that other people could or should do, put their name beside it, ask them to do it and let it go. This will be hard for control freaks, but be honest with yourself. Once the task has been transferred successfully, cross it off your list.
- Look at your day, then circle three things on your list you actually can accomplish today. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, as long as you realistically can finish them today. If one item will take all day, and that’s what you want to do today, just pick that one.
- Turn your paper over, and write only those three to-do items on the back.
- Do your three things, and cross them off both lists as you complete them (that’s my favorite part).
- Now you have a choice — decide you are finished for the day and go do something fun or choose three more things.
- Repeat the process as many times as you want or for as long as your energy holds out.
- Tomorrow, you can use the longer list as a starting point and add more tasks to it.
The Rule of Three is simple, but that’s the beauty of it. Simple means anyone can do it, and if you do this every weekday, you will knock off no less than 15 items from your to-do list every week. Gosh, that sounds super productive!
– Kelly Nagel is president of the Acworth Business Association. She is the chief marketing officer and “bagel tester” for Nagel’s Bagels.
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