To effectively work from home try the ‘Rule of Three’

Rule of 3 working from home

The ‘Rule of Three’ is a proven effective strategy and we could all do with a little help right now…

It’s about focus, being more productive and effective with our time.

Many of us are not used to working at home and so things can be distracting and our workload and focus can suffer. We can all be busy all day – but ask yourself, “Are you productive?”.

You can read a lot about the Rule of Three’s principles and approaches, as it’s been applied to many different aspects in our lives and the magical number of 3 – why it works…

Writing Principles claim is it more humorous and effective to have ‘Three Little Pigs‘, ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff‘, ‘Three Muskateers‘ rather than two or four.

Content writers suggest ‘clusters of three sticks in your head better’ and such ‘sticky’ words have been used throughout our history – ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’, ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen‘, ‘Blood, sweat and tears‘ and now ‘Protect the NHS‘.

Many advertising agencies have taken this approach and used it for company slogans because it helps lands the message and it is memorable – ‘Mars a day – help you work rest and play‘, the Olympic motto is ‘Faster, Stronger, Higher‘ – road safety; ‘Stop, Look and Listen‘, Tesco’s ‘Every little helps‘, Nike ‘Just do it‘  the list is endless.

It has also been used in the military to teach survival techniques, 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water…


So why 3?

It is basically down to our brain and how we process information, as we have become highly efficient at recognising patterns and three is the smallest number of elements needed to create a pattern, therefore it is more memorable – and it relates to ‘chunking’ or the Pomodoro technique where you group tasks against time and take a break and come back – as you become more intentional on working on the right things, for the right reasons and feel accomplished! 3 wins – it’s achievable?


So what – how does this help me?

Well if you use the Rule of Three as a productivity principle and apply this rigorously – it will enable you to be more productive, effective and purposeful! It sounds to simple doesn’t it – but it works!

“The power of the Rule of 3 is in mental focus and concentration. It’s a pre-commitment to finishing 3 things that matter. Day-in, day-out, no exceptions. Achieving 3 important outcomes a day might not seem like much, but that’s 1,095 meaningful results over the course of a year.” says Tony Khuon.


So what is the ‘Rule of Three’?

The basic principle is to focus on the 3 key things, which reduces the time spent on the things that don’t matter and can be used as an efficiency saving tool. This has been tweaked to be specific for daily working.

So, EVERY day write

  1. What 3 things (outcomes not tasks) are the most important to focus on today – things you MUST do?
  2. What 3 things would you LIKE to get done today?
  3. What 3 things do you need to do at some point DURING the day (less important)?

The last thing to do each day – write down the three things you want to accomplish tomorrow. This allows you to start the day and be purposeful and you don’t get sidetracked


This is based on the ‘Rule of Three’ which comes from J.D. Meier’s in his book, Getting Results the Agile Way. Here’s how Meier wants you to think about when you are setting your goals:

  1. 3 wins for the day
  2. 3 wins for the week
  3. 3 wins for the month
  4. 3 wins for the year

You get intentional about directing your time, your energy, and your attention to work on the right things, at the right time, the right way. If nothing else, it gives you a very simple vision, so you know what you are striving for. Without a simple vision, your days can ride off in all directions, and you might do a lot, but it won’t feel as meaningful and you won’t feel a strong sense of accomplishment.” Here is his Slideshare if you want to find out more

You could go even further and use the Pomodoro technique created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, which can boost your productivity. This is basically budgeting your time/work into short increments of time called a ‘Pomodoro’ (he advises 25 mins) then take a short break, which aims to give you maximum focus with less mental fatigue. Try this out for yourself – it can work for some people and others can work for a longer period but the main principle but for it to work you must try it for 7-21 days!

As a designer in a studio environment we have always had to set time against tasks, but I must admit – I ‘m out of the habit and I think for me 25 minute isn’t long enough to do any design tasks unless I broke down each component, but taking time out is essential to re-focus.

But if you are getting distracted and it’s not really working for you at home – what have you got to lose by trying something new?

Feeling productive, being pro-active and focused is a great feeling.

Being reactive, distracted and stressed isn’t good for anyone – so maybe try the Rule of 3 tomorrow BUT write your list tonight!

One Comment

  • Very insightful Sarah. I have been drawn to 3’s in the past not really knowing why. Getting people to know, like and trust you on the internet in order to sell online is another great example. Thanks for explaining!


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