How I Stay Efficient – My Three Hour Rule

Some people are more efficient than others. There are many reasons for this: ability to focus, complexity of the work, distractions, etc. But while some have unique skills and intellect to get things done quickly, most people must develop systems to help them improve their efficiency and balance many diverse tasks.

Some people rely on to-do lists to stay efficient and focused. I’ve tried to-do lists – and have failed miserably.

Years ago, while managing dozens of complex cases as a trial attorney, I started focusing on three major priorities every day, breaking the day down into 3 hour blocks of time. That system has worked well for me and has helped me to manage a massive amount of work as an entrepreneur. What I do works well for me but might not work for you. There’s no perfect system for everybody – but everybody could benefit from a regular practice. Here’s what I do regularly:

What do you do to stay efficient?

  • I think I’ll try a form of this. Good stuff

  • Marshall – would love to hear your impressions after you experiment a bit…

  • Charlene G

    Three hours for one task!? LOL, I think I would have to divide my day into 3-MINUTE chunks.

  • Just what I needed Ross, right now my to do list is so long, I go to sleep each night frustrated by how little I really accomplished. I’m going to give this a try! 🙂

  • Very cool. I used to do a 40/ 20 when I was in high school.

    40 min on a subject that was science or math
    20 minutes Nintendo or basketball

    40 min on a subject that was humanities or language
    20 minutes Nintendo or basketball

    and the cycle continues.

    Nowadays, I did not go beyond Nintendo to the X-Boxes, but I liked CrowdSpring’s approach for one because it is creative. Everything I seen come out of it has been amazing. I am subscribed to CrowdSpring on my TwitterFeed.

    keep it up — if possible, I would like to work for you all — just let me know what the position is and I’ll send a resume,

    one of those creative types–
    Yen-Hong in Austin Texas
    (don’t mind relocating to Chicago) ;0

  • I used to written my to-dos on notes, end up with piles of notes or postit everywhere, not practical. Desktop to-do list could either be better or worse when find yourself enjoy listing all your to-dos but finally forget getting them done. I’ve found a suitable to-do app though. 3 hours block of time is an interesting method, I think I should try this.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Charlene – As I mentioned in the video, the 3 hour rule applies only to the 3 most important tasks on any given day. I don’t spend 3 hours on every task – I spend as much time as necessary (it can be as little as a few minutes – although that’s rare). And of course, I do many many other things during the day – I just treat the other things very differently.

    Arlene – Would love to hear how it works for you. I’ve struggled with to-do lists and ultimately concluded they weren’t for me.

    Yen-Hong – The 40/20 Nintendo rule certainly sounds fun! Much thanks for the kind words – we’re a small team and not hiring at the moment, but when we do have openings, we promote them actively on Twitter – so you’ll be one of the first to find out…

    Monika – I’ve had the same experience with to-dos and have tried a few apps that worked marginally better. Would love to hear how it works out for you if you try. And don’t think of this as a replacement – it can supplement what you already do by letting you clearly prioritize the 2 or 3 most important things you need to get done. When you approach your day with that mindset, you’ll feel good about your productivity nearly every day when you accomplish those 2 or 3 things.

  • A great, simple idea. Three-hour blocks could provide a good structure for prioritization.

    I also find it helps if I work my ass off.

  • Hi Ross,

    Good thoughts. Just wanted to say thanks for all you share on this website for us designers trying to start a business!

    Appreciate it!

  • Ben – working one’s ass off is always a plus unless you can accomplish what you need without doing that.

    Jacob – I’m so happy that you’re finding the videos useful!

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