As any tech pro knows, it’s easy to be busy, but difficult to be productive. Meetings, phone calls, and reactive tasks can fill up a schedule, leaving you at the end of the day with essential tasks unaccomplished.
In order to power through a to-do list, some people have embraced the “1-3-5 rule,” which functions like this: Before you start your workday, write down one major task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks that you want to accomplish. The one major task is your top priority for the day, and should command most of your effort; you should also do everything possible to accomplish the other eight tasks, even if they rank lower in priority.
Of course, this isn’t a system set in stone. You may designate two tasks as “major,” for example, and a lesser number as medium or small; the important part is to create a list of things you can actually accomplish in a workday.
Those new to the technique may fall into the common trap of listing tasks too ambitious to complete in a day, only to end up discouraged by a lack of progress. If you’re tackling a huge project (or series of projects) that absolutely must be completed—a new software release, for example—it’s helpful to break it up into smaller components that you can realistically tackle in an eight- or ten-hour period.
It’s also important to establish the time necessary to complete the tasks on your list. That means prioritizing work over other, less important duties, even if it means moving meetings around. Scheduling your major task for your peak working hours—whether morning, afternoon, or night—can also help boost productivity and curb distractions.