Stay Focused at Work with the 1-3-5 Rule


People, in general, are vulnerable to the tempting lures of procrastination and distraction. Most wind up making excessive to-do lists, crammed with unfinished tasks. Without useful ways to organize to-do lists and plans, many of us fail to get things done quickly and efficiently. The 1–3–5 Rule is a nifty technique that can make a significant difference in your time management skillset.

Although productivity experts claim that setting priorities is important, there’s no perfect way to do it, so it can be hard to know what to focus on. It’s tempting to do all the minor tasks first to feel a sense of accomplishment. But doing so won’t leave much time for all those other tasks, resulting in lost productivity.

Let’s delve into how the 1-3-5 Rule can help.

Daily workplace productivity

According to a Gallup State of the Local Workplace survey, 85% of employees are disengaged at work. As a result, firms lose $7 trillion in productivity each year.

  • More than 48% of all workers waste time at the office using the Internet for personal reasons or taking personal calls.
  • Only 15% of organizations have a social media policy. That means the rest are likely losing money as employees use company time for social media.
  • At least 70% of workers have said that they check their personal emails at work. At the same time, some check their inboxes several times a day. 



The 1-3-5 Rule makes goal-setting precise

What is the 1-3-5 Rule?

The 1-3-5 Rule focuses on realizing that there is a finite number of things that we can complete each day. This rule says that a person should do one big task, three medium tasks and five smaller ones. This strategy can help employees complete tasks effectively.

It is useless to make an endless list of things to do, all it does is make us feel more pressured and overworked. Employees also feel frustrated when they don’t finish scheduled tasks or even one major task. One way of easing this frustration is using TimeTrack Project Time Tracking to keep everyone on the same wavelength with goals and objectives.



TimeTrack Project Overview


So, when using the 1-3-5 Rule, we can accomplish nine different things every day. The 1-3-5 Rule says that to-do task lists should be balanced and include:

One big task

  • One big task that takes the most energy and a fair amount of work.

Three medium tasks

  • Three tasks that are medium priority-wise and aren’t very challenging.

Five small tasks

  • Five smaller tasks that people can do quickly and without much difficulty.

Using the 1-3-5 Rule helps in making progress and helps employees get along better with their co-workers. On top of that, it is simple to execute and is beneficial to one’s daily productivity.


Application of the 1-3-5 Rule

It’s better to make a list right after clocking out of work to get a head start on new tasks for the next day. This will help employees remember all they need to do before they even get out of bed.

Employees cost an organization money. Effective time management allows companies to determine if the money is spent wisely and if their time is profitable. Such a strategy makes it simpler to prevent common time-wasters at work.

While it may not be possible to get to all nine tasks on the list, especially if there’s a packed work schedule the next day, following these steps can help ensure a smooth application of the rule:

  • List all the tasks for the week

Make a plan for the week ahead by writing down everything that needs to be done. This could be leftover work from last week or routine tasks.

Include a few urgent tasks following the weekly team meeting regarding a new project or plan to stay organized. Don’t hold back when making a list of things to do.

Ensure that larger projects that are needed to be done this week aren’t mixed in with those that can shift to next week. Make it a habit to add something new to the “Next Week” list as soon as it comes up, whether it’s a task or a project.

  • Categorize tasks

Create new columns to organize tasks better or add labels to the side of the list.

Big projects typically require more than three or four hours to accomplish. Allow at least two hours to do a medium-sized task. As an added note, one task might not require more than half an hour.

Along with the time commitment, remember to factor in the amount of work required to complete each assignment. It may take a while to do a pretty easy task.

  • Write a to-do list

A 1-3-5 daily to-do list is the next step once the tasks have been compiled. Plan this list daily, either the night before or the first thing in the morning. You may also complete a week-long 1-3-5 rule list well in advance.

Instead of keeping a lengthy to-do list at your desk, choose a dedicated space to write down a 1-3-5 list to resist the temptation of adding more tasks.

Users can also add unanticipated tasks to a 1-3-5 rule list for the day or set them for the following day or the following week.

  • Start with the biggest item first

The 1-3-5 rule dictates that you tackle the most important work and big tasks of the day first. Start with the hardest activity and then move on to the easier ones.

Adopting this perspective, start every workday by concentrating only on one big thing or the biggest task.

Most of us tend to be most productive when there are fewer distractions. Therefore, completing tasks in the morning is the best way since there are fewer interruptions.

  • Incorporate the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method is a time-based method proven effective for increasing focus. It also helps eliminate the tendency to switch between tasks.

This method is a tool for getting people to do deep work. Start working for 25 minutes in the first phase before taking a five-minute break. This equals one Pomodoro. Take an extended rest of 15 to 20 minutes after four Pomodoros.

  • Keep track of progress

Keep track of what to do daily and check the average time spent. This will help you customize the methods to make more progress on the most important tasks.

One easy way to do this is to take ten minutes of the work day at different times to write down what has been done. Include what’s in the pipeline, how long it takes and anything else that might help in the future.

  • Use software and apps to manage daily tasks

Using software that tracks employee productivity is another way of increasing output. In doing so, employees can identify the sources of stress in their lives and prioritize efforts accordingly.

The automatic duty roster in TimeTrack ends hours of work! Using an innovative algorithm, this feature figures out the best duty schedule for you and your staff.



TimeTrack Duty Roster

Easy as 1-3-5: the benefits

  1. Increases productivity: This rule can boost productivity and efficiency, enabling workers to finish more deep work.
  2. Less time wasted: One shouldn’t spend too much time making a definitive list because it’s likely to change as the day progresses. If something more pressing comes up, don’t be afraid to push a task to the next day.
  3. Flexibility: It’s useful for business and is also great for planning the whole day. Adding a few personal tasks like “Call Mom” can give people a breather in the middle of the day.

Getting the 1-3-5 Rule right

This rule is a simple yet effective way to boost staff productivity. For example, each employee has three goals that must be fulfilled in the allotted time period. These goals might vary but should contain big, medium and small tasks.

As one goal, an employee might clean out his email inbox. As another goal, he may send out invoices and talk to potential clients about an upcoming event. Other employees may choose between three work-related tasks: retouching photos, updating customer databases and filling out paperwork.

Let’s take another example. Student X knows that he must follow certain steps in a specific order if he wants to get the best results. So, he may put some tasks ahead of others, like finishing a paper.

He can then add a couple of other assignments as medium tasks and five more that he knows he can do when the more important ones are complete.

By dividing his tasks into 1-3-5 rule categories, he can finish them on time and with less stress.

Key takeaways

The 1-3-5 Rule is a tried-and-true method for keeping a list of tasks in order. It’s easy and quick to set up and can help all team members keep up with their work.

This method is adaptable enough to be changed to get the best results, and the more it’s used, the better the results.

Sorting your tasks on the to-do list into appropriate groups is the first step in creating a list. Most people have an idea of the big, medium and small tasks just by looking at them, but the time it takes them to finish a task can be used as a reference.

Use time tracking to monitor how much time one person spends on things. So, if a small task takes longer than anticipated, remember to move it up to a medium task the next time.

With one click, you can establish a simple and clear duty plan for your team. Using  TimeTrack’s automatic assignment priority, you can create a custom duty schedule. Create the perfect roster in just a few clicks!


Use the 1-3-5 Rule to instill order and productivity within your team. Test TimeTrack for free and get an idea of how you can boost everyone’s all-round efficiency.