1-3-5 Rule: Supercharge your To-Do List get more Productive

The productivity of to-do lists has never been in question. They are great tools that help individuals arrange their tasks and improve efficiency. However, they are only effective when used correctly, and therein lies the problem. 

Most people have trouble developing and implementing to-do lists and checklists. In fact, 40% of to-do list items don’t get finished. Why is that? The main reason is that people overestimate what they can do.

You wake up feeling energised and figure that you can get through at least ten of the things that you are supposed to handle. However, you forget that you won’t have the same vigour throughout the day. Plus, various distractions come up as you work that interfere with your flow.

Another issue is that some people don’t allocate enough time to scheduled activities. So, how can you make a daily to-do list work for you? Well, the 1-3-5 rule has proven effective. It can improve how you plan the items on your checklist.

What is the 1-3-5 Rule System?

This productivity rule requires you to divide your to-do list across 9 tasks – 1 big one, 3 medium and 5 small ones. Arranging your activities in this order allows you to tackle them according to importance, which makes accomplishing your work less challenging. 

You only have so many productive hours in a day and you have to be realistic about how much you can achieve. The 1-3-5 strategy allows you to do that. It also balances your to-do list so that don’t end up focusing on the same type of activities.

Implementing a 1-3-5 To-do List

So, how do you create a to do list using the 1-3-5 rule? At the beginning of the week, list all the activities that you need to tackle. Some of these might be remnants from the previous week. If it’s a new project that stretches over several weeks, only focus on the tasks for that week. Compile everything that you have to do, regardless of how small it seems, for example, answering an email.

Once you have this list, classify the items according to importance. Have a section for the major, medium and minor tasks. How do you determine this? 

For one, using the amount of time that it takes to complete a particular job. Big tasks, for instance, can take anything between 3 to 5 hours while small ones require 25-30 minutes. Consider the effort that an activity takes. A task might be 2-hours long but the effort required is minimal.

Then you can move items from the long list to your daily to-do list. Pick one from the ‘major’ category, three from medium and five from small. Repeat the process the following day.

Tips to Get the 1-3-5 Productivity Rule Right

Grouping tasks doesn’t have to be perfect. Therefore, avoid spending so much time on this step that you lose focus. Let activities flow freely as you list them. If you remember other tasks later, you can quickly add them to the list.

Don’t be too rigid when planning your activities. You can leave space on your to-list for other small tasks that might pop up during the day. If you don’t have enough work to fill the list, you can personalise it accordingly.

You can implement other strategies like the Pomodoro method by Francesco Cirillo which is based around a timed work window of 25 mins followed by a 5 minute break, 4 times before a longer break. This method can help you get through the large tasks without losing focus.

Use a suitable app to implement your to-do list. Some platforms are customised for the 1-3-5 rule productivity rule but for others, you might have to improvise and set up the different categories.

Creating an effective to-do list is not easy, especially when you have a million tasks to accomplish. The 1-3-5 rule is an excellent way to structure your checklist. It helps you channel your energy and attention on the most crucial tasks of the day, hence boosting productivity.

Other to-do list productivity methods to consider is Eat the Frog: Tackling the most Challenging Task First and the Ivy Lee Method: How Only 6 Tasks on Your To-Do List Improves Productivity.

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