The Rule of Three

It's amazing how many sayings there are in our culture about the number three. Think about it: "Good things (or bad) come in threes;" "Third time's the charm." A rule of thumb in speaking is, no more than three major points in a speech. (That was three examples, wasn't it?) And then there are all of the mystical references to powerful threesomes. My purpose today is to look purely at the practical application of this "rule of three," and see how we can use it to become more effective managers of our lives and priorities.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

* What are the three most important goals I want to achieve this year?

* What are the three most important things I need to complete today?

* What if I had only one hour in which to accomplish something important, what three things would I choose to do?

* What three clients or prospects do you most need to contact today?

It may be difficult to boil down your seemingly endless "to do" list to just three things, but asking the question forces you to make some powerful decisions about what is really important in your life, and what is, as Shakespeare wrote, is "sound and fury signifying nothing." And while you may still have many other tasks you want to complete, knowing your top three will begin to create a clarity, focus and momentum to your day.

Thoreau once admonished people of his day, who lived without the so-called time saving devices of cell phones, email, fax machines and rapid transportation, to let the affairs of the day number one and two, rather than having a long list of duties and obligations to tend to. I think he was on to something. What I've noticed (and hear from coaching clients and many others I speak to) is that we all try to cram too much stuff into too little time. As a result we're on constant overwhelm, running faster and faster but making little real progress toward what really matters because we don't know what really matters.

Experiment today and in the week ahead with this rule of three. Decide the three most important tasks you want to accomplish today and go at them first. Work the rest of your "to do" list around your top three. You may need to declare some time boundaries, i.e. closing your office door, letting the phone go to voicemail or not responding to every email that drops into your in box, but the results may well be worth it. Far too many of us (myself included) allow others to steal our time and make their priorities ours. It doesn't have to be that way. This week I encourage you to use the power of three: to focus, to build momentum, to create clarity about what's really important to you.

As with anything, applying the rule of three may require some extra discipline at first. But remember, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"

Quote of the Week

"One always has time enough, if one will apply it well." ~~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Betty Mahalik has been coaching small business owners, independent professionals and leaders who want to achieve more but stress less, since 1996. Her background includes several years in the broadcasting and public relations fields prior to starting her own firm in 1987. She is an accomplished public speaker and corporate trainer specializing in communications, goal-setting and leveraging your strengths. Since 2001, she has written a weekly motivational message, free to subscribers, titled Monday Morning Coach. To subscribe or learn more about Betty's coaching and training services, visit

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