Ever heard of the 3D Rule? It’s about prioritising and getting quick action to complete your to-do list. Adopt the 3D Rule and your personal productivity will increase!

Have you ever said “I don’t have enough time…”?  That’s interesting because we all have the same amount each day, each week, each month… but some people use it better than others. I have to confess that I dislike most of the popular advice on “time management” because it tends to focus on getting more stuff done – but often more of the wrong things! Those who make best use of their time don’t necessarily get more done, what they actually do is prioritise well and get the the most valuable tasks completed. They might also possess other learned skills such as delegating, or knowing when to say “no”.

A lot of people say “I work best when under pressure”. Actually this isn’t fundamentally true. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to show that when under pressure – stress – we really don’t use our reasoning and logic skills well at all. The ‘fight or flight’ drive kicks-in and blood is diverted away from our brains; we really don’t think at our best under pressure. However, what does tend to happen is that we stop procrastinating and make quick decisions under pressure. And that generally makes us better at prioritising and, yes, getting more things completed!

Prioritising, reducing procrastination and ticking-off the highest priority tasks is a good approach. But beware of ticking off the simple, quick, tasks because they are quick, rather than truly prioritising and focusing on the most important tasks. See our separate blog about how to prioritise, but first let’s get you a quick win by explaining the 3D rule.

The 3D Rule

The 3D rule is a way to narrow your choices and act on your list of priorities. The choices for each item are:

  1. Do it! (Now, or in the next hour)
  2. Drop it!
  3. Delegate it!

Create a list of what you need to get done. Prioritise it, and then go through very quickly deciding whether each item is a Do it, Drop it, or Delegate it. If you’re a procrastinator, give yourself two minutes and also apply the rule that any you can’t decide on means the same as Drop it (that’ll scare you into deciding!).

Where you’ve chosen to Delegate It, go through and write next to it the name of the person you’re going to delegating it to. If you find it hard to delegate to people, you probably get caught up in thinking “How will they do this?”, and unless you know the answer, you won’t usually delegate. Well, it’s possible you’re the only person on the planet capable, but often there’s someone else just wishing you’d give them the space to get on with it. If you find delegation difficult – add another item to your to-do list: “Get good at Delegating”! We run regular courses on delegation and I’m writing a book on it too. (Everyone says “I assume you won’t write it yourself… you’ll delegate it!”. Ha ha).

You’d be amazed how many things deserve to be in the Drop-it category. The truth is that you can’t do everything. If you can, you’re probably wasting a lot of your valuable time on very low-value tasks. Don’t be a busy fool. Choose only as many tasks in the Do-it category as you genuinely have time for in the immediate future. Reserve the time in your diary and stick to it. The rest either needs to be delegated, or you may as well recognise it’s not going to get done, so drop-it and move on. Don’t agonise or procrastinate, that just makes you feel bad and makes you even less productive. We’re at our most productive when happy, focused, and in possession of the necessary knowledge and skills for the task at hand.

The 4D rule (when the 3D rule isn’t enough)

But if you still struggle, let me offer you the soft option. You probably would have taken it anyway if you need this… The 4D rule adds a 4th option that naturally has to be a word beginning with ‘D’ – Defer-it! Yes, that’s right, put off until tomorrow what you can’t get done today and don’t have the guts to admit it will never get done or the skill to delegate it. Maybe that’s harsh, or maybe it’s true.

If you continually struggle with lack of time – prioritise the time and investment to read a book or attend a course or get a coach who will help you develop the skills to improve your prioritisation, delegation, effectiveness and therefore your value. It will be the best investment you ever make. You can always make more money, but you can’t create more time, so make the maximum use of what you have.