A New York Stock Exchange exec uses the '1-3-5 rule' to eliminate lingering guilt over an unfinished to-do list

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betty liuRadiate

  • The "1-3-5 rule" is a productivity hack that Betty Liu, executive vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, uses every day.
  • Liu said every morning, she writes down exactly nine tasks to accomplish that day: one big thing, three medium things, and five small things.
  • Putting her tasks in writing make her more likely to do them, and the act of crossing the last item off the list gives her a sense of accomplishment, she said.

If you often struggle to get through the items on your to-do list, you'd be wise to try out a productivity hack from Betty Liu, the executive vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

Liu told Business Insider that since January 1, she's been following the "1-3-5 rule" to organize her day.

Under the 1-3-5 rule, every day, you write down exactly nine items to accomplish before the day is over: one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. Liu said she writes her list every morning on her train commute, although she said ideally she would write them the night before.

The idea is that by narrowing down your list to just nine items and assigning them a level of importance, you'll have an easier time staying on track.

"I have to say, it's been an amazing productivity booster," Liu told Business Insider. "Just the act of writing something down makes you obligated to do it. And when you have the satisfaction at the end of the day of checking off that last item on that list, you feel so much better, as if you really completed the day."

Read more: Successful people credit Cutco, the company that recruits college kids to sell knives, with teaching them business lessons that last for life

Liu would know something about productivity. In 2016, she founded Radiate, an online library of video lessons about leadership and management from entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington, Tim Armstrong, and Magic Johnson. Before joining the New York Stock Exchange, she was a finance journalist and anchor for Bloomberg Television.

Liu said she doesn't always finish all nine of the tasks on her list, but if she needs to bump a task to the next day's list, she tries to make sure it's one of the five small ones.

"If can tackle the big thing, I feel like I'm halfway there," she said.

Once you finish your last task, Liu said, you can rest assured knowing you've done the things that matter most.

"It frees you up mentally to turn off your phone, sit down and relax, enjoy time with your family," she said. "Because you don't feel that guilt, that lingering guilt that you should have answered that email or you should have had that one more meeting."

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