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Last Updated on December 7, 2017

Ever Wonder Why We Count to Three?

Ever Wonder Why We Count to Three?

January 9, 2007 was the day Steve Jobs introduced the first generation of the iPhone. It’s a seminal moment in technology history (and societal history) — the iPhone changed almost everything about how we interact with each other and brands, with Android and others soon following suit in the market. Beyond what the moment represented, the presentation itself is interesting.[1]

Jobs was famous for using expressions like “Wait, there’s more” or “Another thing” in his presentations, and he even opened the 2007 presentation by discussing the three revolutionary products they’d be introducing:

  • The first, a widescreen iPod with touch controls
  • The second, is a revolutionary mobile phone
  • And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device

    As the audience applauded, Jobs eventually said,

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    “Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, they are one device and we are calling it iPhone!”

    The way Jobs structured his presentation is a concept called “The Rule of 3.” What is that exactly, and why is it so special?

    The Power of Three

    The Rule of 3 is a writing principle described in Roy Peter Clark’s book How To Write Short. It suggests that events or characters introduced in three are more humorous, satisfying, and effective in execution of a message and engaging the audience. The audience is more likely to remember the information conveyed and it makes the speaker appear knowledgeable while being both simple and catchy.

    Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights activist and preacher, was known for his uses of tripling and the Rule of 3 throughout his many influential speeches.

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      His speech “Non-Violence and Racial Justice” contained a binary opposition of the rule of three:[2]

      “insult, injustice and exploitation”,

      followed by a few lines,

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      “justice, good will, and brotherhood.”

      In short, a list of three things is more intriguing than just two things, but much easier to remember than 5 or 10 things. It’s more comprehensive with more options, but not too many options that can overwhelm the audience or anyone who needs to make a decision with this information.

      Consider a situation where you have one option or piece of information. It doesn’t seem comprehensive, and you have nothing to compare it to.

      Two pieces of information is slightly better, but anytime you have two options, you are invited to do a direct compare and contrast. That inherently makes things seem more extreme and removes a degree of objectivity.

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      Now consider three. It offers a bigger sense of the whole. It’s more comprehensive than two options, and it provides different angles to the idea in question — but not an overwhelming number of angles.

      Count to Three for Everything

      You can apply the Rule of 3 to almost everything.

      • When you explain something, try three examples. Steve Jobs above is an example.
      • When you want to convince people, try three reasons. We need to take a vacation this year because we deserve it, we got the right bonuses at work, and there is a deal on Switzerland.
      • Before you make a decision, consider three options. Always find that third possibility so you have a broader array of angles.

      The Rule of 3 can be a powerful play in your life. It helped seminal figures like Jobs and King craft some of their most important presentations ever. Try it and see what it can do for you.

      Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on September 17, 2018

      How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

      How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

      Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

      Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

      All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

      Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

      How bad really is multitasking?

      It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

      Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

      This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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      We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

      So what to do about it?

      Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

      Now, forget about how to multitask!

      Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

      1. Get enough rest

      When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

      This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

      When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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      2. Plan your day

      When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

      When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

      Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

      3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

      I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

      I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

      Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

      4. When at your desk, do work

      We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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      Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

      5. Learn to say no

      Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

      Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

      By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

      6. Turn off notifications on your computer

      For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

      Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

      7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

      Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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      You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

      The bottom line

      Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

      Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

      Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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