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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

A Better To-Do List: The 1-3-5 Rule

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A couple months ago, our founder and president Alex Cavoulacos (who also happens to be the most productive person we know) shared her secrets for actually getting through your to-do list. And since then, we at The Muse have been trying out her tips on our own overflowing lists.

And you know what? They work.

One in particular has had a major impact on our productivity: the 1-3-5 rule.

Here’s the gist: Understand that you can't accomplish an endless number of things each day. Instead, accept that you can reasonably get one big thing, three medium things, and five small things done. So keep your daily to-do list to just those nine items.

Sound scary? Well, it is, at first. But you only have so much time, and you can only get a finite number of things done in a day. Making a 1-3-5 list before you get started means the things you will get the most important tasks accomplished.

Of course, this can be flexible. If you spend much of your day in meetings, for example, you might need to cut your number of items down. If you have a lot of unexpected tasks thrown at you in your job, try leaving some of your task slots blank to fill in as things come up.

But the point is, prioritization works. So, give it a whirl—we’ve even created a template you can use to try it out! Just download, print a few copies, and spend the rest of your days this week focusing on the few things that matter most. We think you’ll be surprised by how much you actually get done.