Why you should try to accomplish only 3 things this New Year

by | Jan 9, 2017 | Focus

Takeaway: This New Year, choose three main goals you want to accomplish—both in your work and home life. Three may seem like a small number, but this ritual will force you to separate what’s important from what isn’t, actually remember the intentions you set, and let you act towards these goals on a daily basis.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 31s.

The more frequently you set intentions, the more productive you become. Intentions are built to be acted upon, and especially when they account for the longer-term goals you set, you become more productive in all the best possible ways.

This is why, more than any other productivity tactic, I write about the Rule of 3. It’s one of the simplest productivity tactics out there—and that’s precisely what makes it so powerful.

As a refresher, here’s the rule:

When you wake up, fast-forward to the end of the day in your head. Ask yourself: by the time this day is over, what three things will I want to have accomplished?

The rule is lightweight enough to do at the start of every day (and every week), and has quickly become my favorite productivity ritual.

I think this same rule is worth practicing at the start of every year. This is true for several reasons:

  • We’re wired to think in threes. This is my favorite part of the rule. We have sayings like “good things come in threes,” “celebrities die in threes,” and “the third time’s the charm.” We divide stories into three parts—the beginning, middle, and end—and award three Olympic medals. While we typically can’t remember long lists of things we have to do, we can usually remember three things. This applies whether we use the rule every day, week, month, or year.
  • It’s hard to pick just three things to focus on. This is especially true over the course of an entire year. Picking just three things forces you to filter what’s important from what isn’t. The result is a trio of chosen goals you deeply care about, rather than goals that just sound good on the surface.
  • You can carve out work and personal intentions. In addition to the three work intentions I set every day and week, I also pick three personal intentions to ensure I have balance between my work and my life. Consider this at the start of your year.
  • You can act towards your most important goals on a daily basis. One of the more difficult aspects of investing in productivity is making sure our daily actions progress us towards our bigger, longer-term goals. By setting just three intentions for the year and considering those intentions when we set our weekly and daily intentions, we can regularly think about them and make consistent progress.
  • You can set intentions with your team. You can also use this rule to get your entire team on the same page, and guide them to work on what’s important. At a team level, this rule works brilliantly for setting weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals.

While setting just three goals for the year ahead may seem like a trivial goal, in practice, it’s anything but. Doing so will allow you to choose your focus for the year ahead, and will significantly increase the odds that you’ll achieve what you set out to do.

What three things do you plan to accomplish in 2017?


Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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