On leadership: Try the 1-2-3 rule for time efficiency

Narrow your focus to what needs to be done this week.

Pam Solberg-Tapper web.jpg
Pam Solberg-Tapper

Have you felt overwhelmed and pressured because you have too much to do with not enough time to do it? Many leaders try to solve this dilemma by creating a daily “To Do List” to help them with their effectiveness. This sometimes works, but in reality, we usually get tripped up by three simple reasons. One, we tend to overestimate how much we can tackle each day. Two, we underestimate how long each task will take us. And three, there are numerous disruptions during the day that takes us away from our best intentions.

The “1-2-3 Rule” is a simple strategy that will help increase daily efficiency.

Rule 1: Instead of having an endless number of things on your “To Do List,” narrow your focus to what needs to be done this week. Then each day, select those things that are of the highest priority.

Rule 2: Rank your day’s top priority tasks and put them into three categories. “Big” can take a couple hours, so include one of these tasks. “Medium” can take about an hour, so include two of this type of task. “Small” takes less than 30 minutes, so you can include three of this type. Be sure to be specific to assure you accomplish what you set out to do. For example, instead of writing “expense report” write “enter receipts into spreadsheet.”


Here is an example:

One Big Task – takes a couple hours

  • Create presentation, PowerPoint and handouts for upcoming Board Meeting next week

Two Medium Tasks – take about an hour each

  • Organize information and feedback and schedule Jim’s upcoming performance review
  • Prepare for Wednesdays meeting by creating an agenda of the most important discussion points, send it out and ask members for additional topics

Three Small Tasks – take under 30 min each

  • Return call to Jason
  • Follow-up on action items from yesterday’s team meeting
  • Read the latest association newsletter

Rule 3: The last step and the most important is to schedule each task into your calendar with its own specific appointment slot.

The 1-2-3 Rule is all about focus. Where focus goes, energy flows. By following this strategy each day you will be putting energy towards the things that matter most.

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.”

— Tim Ferriss, American podcaster, author and entrepreneur


Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, please contact her at or 218-729-0772.

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