Nov 5, 2010

Power of 3

One of the most powerful principles that can help everyone work more efficiently is also one of the simplest: It’s called the Role of 3, and it reflects the fact that people remember roughly three distinct things from any event, lecture, meeting, book or article. This limitation arises because your memory wants to focus on interconnected facts, rather than distinct and independent pieces of information.

Respecting this rule is easy. Just focus your meetings and presentations on about three things.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Start every meeting and presentation with a brief description of the three things you are going to cover. This advance organizer gets everyone ready for what is going to happen. It prepares people to attach new information to what they already know, which is crucial for memory.
  • Focus the meeting on just those three items. Resist the urge to add new topics or to go off on tangents. If something new gets raised in a meeting, or if a new thought occurs to you while giving a presentation, decide whether it is urgent enough to add it immediately. If it isn’t, push it off until later.
  • Review the three key points. Make sure that you remind everyone what it is you wanted them to remember.

I know that your first reaction is going to be to look at this advice and say it’s common sense, that you already believe it to be true, and that you have heard it before.  But the real question is: Do you do it? 



  1. Can I start with just one and work my way to three. I'm not very ambitious today.

  2. God advice Ken. When I worked at At&t and Neostar Retail Group I tried to follow these principles, but I would be lying if I said that I was always successful in getting other people to focus.

  3. I'm not so sure about this one. Seems like it would force you into always thinking in threes. What if you only have one key point to get across?

  4. I've never heard this before. It's actually very interesting. They say people you know die in threes. Oh my. Why did I think of that? Please don't drop dead. That would mean 2 other bloggers would drop dead, too. Shoot. I'm so upset now that I'm going to have to go drink a bottle of beer. I guess I better drink 3.

  5. Good post and helpful, too! Common sense isn't so common any more, is it?

  6. This works in so many areas of life. Focusing on only three short-term goals at a time; three items on your to-do list. Nice post!


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