Goals, and the Rule of 3

It’s already March, and despite it only being over two months into the year, I feel so much has already happened.

I spent most of January on the other side of the world, touring Borneo while getting married to the love of my life. We had two weddings, one here in the states and one in Malaysia, where she grew up. I felt privileged to see her childhood, meet her family, and try a lot of the local food (including the infamous durian, which according to legend, no white person can get within a mile of without dry heaving).

I was awed by verdant jungle, high mountains, flowing streams, tropical islands, and most of all, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Crammed into those two weeks were lots of food, family gatherings, breathtaking vistas, shopping, and in Bali, lots of massages, relaxation, and sightseeing.

Two months later, I’m settling into married life and pretty much back into the flow of things. Work on the last book of The Xenoworld Saga is going well, and I expect the first draft to be done by the beginning of April. We welcomed our first child (fur-child, that is) a black and white domestic short-hair kitten that we decided to name Luna Lovegood.

So back to what I was going to talk about before these huge, initial digression: my goals.

I’m usually bad with resolutions and goals. The only new year’s resolution I truly stuck with was the one I made back in 2015, when made a habit of going to the gym three times a week. Despite some slip ups here and there, I’m still keeping that one up. I met my goal of becoming much stronger and healthier, not just physically, but also in my diet. As a byproduct of that, I learned how to cook for myself rather than just eat fast food all the time (The Wasteland Chronicles were fueled by nothing more than coffee and Panda Express).

But I’ve never really been a person to stick to a goal well. I’m not sure why, but I’ve just never really been much of a planner or organizer. Even now that I’m 31, it’s not a skill I’ve developed well, which might sound strange for a guy that’s written 14 books. It makes me wonder just how much more I could’ve written with a bit more organization.

Even when I write my books, instead of outlining like I should, I just have a vague idea of where I’m going. I picture some neat scenes or interactions and let the rest pretty much happen organically.

At the same time, I’ve recognized that I do have the need for organization, at least some. I was telling my wife earlier this year that maybe that should be my goal (she agreed, maybe a little more passionately than I would have liked).

One of my main faults is that I tend to be a person of extremes. If I decide to be more organized, for example, I’ll get very excited and want to plan every detail of my schedule down to the dot. (Breakfast at 8, start writing at 8:30, lunch at 12, that sort of thing). That might work for some people, but unsurprisingly, this never lasted more than a day or two for me.

This time around, I’m going to try something that’s a little bit kinder, using a technique I read about called the Rule of 3. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically the idea that you set three goals every single day that you want to accomplish in the realm of your work, and three goals in the realm of your personal life (so really, six goals). As long as you fulfill those goals, you can consider yourself a productive person, pat yourself on the back, and spend the rest of the day however you like.

Likewise, the Rule of 3 also applies on the weekly timescale: 3 personal goals and 3 business-related goals per week that are longer term.

This feels a bit kinder and more manageable that how I tried to go about it before, and still allows for a lot of open-endedness on how I can achieve my goals without letting me get away with thinking “I can just do this tomorrow.” It also prevents me from throwing the out the baby with the bathwater, in the sense that just because I can’t stick to a super strict schedule, I should get rid of daily organization altogether.

So, for today, my three business-related goals were:

  1. Write 1,000 words (done)
  2. Update my Twitter account to something more current (done)
  3. Write a blog post (done)

I finished the 1,000 words easily enough. For me, writing a thousand words has less of a barrier in my mind than doing anything social media related. Did I mention that I’m extremely weird?

I used to post here regularly, and the fact that I don’t do it for months at a stretch fills me with a lot of guilt, strangely enough. The things we know we should do, but don’t, tend to weigh us down. Sometimes, it gets to the point where you feel like there’s so much you should be doing, but you’re not, that it ends up being a bit suffocating and it doesn’t seem like there’s any point to doing anything.

The Rule of 3 is a way for me to fight back against that type of paralyzing mentality. It’s easier to say, “I’ll make it a goal to blog for today,” than to say, “I’ll make a goal to blog three times a week for the rest of time,” which sounds far more daunting.

And in case you’re interested, my personal goals for the day were:

  1. Cook a healthy meal instead of eating out (done)
  2. Start reading my next book (done)
  3. Clean my desk (done)

That last one might seem a bit silly, since cleaning one’s desk takes less than five minutes. But for some reason, the simplest things in life can feel like huge mental hurdles, at least to me. And my desk has become quite cluttered lately. It’s not even perfect now, but is much better than it was before.

As a bonus, my weekly goals will be:

  1. Finish filing my taxes
  2. Finalize a paperback version for Dissolution
  3. Write 10,000 words total by Saturday

Well, that’s all for today. Another box to tick. I really only planned to write 350 words for this post, but for some reason, it blew up quite a bit.


6 thoughts on “Goals, and the Rule of 3

  1. So happy to hear from you; it’s always to long between your post. This time it’s very understandable; with your wonderful trip and marriage.

    My dad was in Borneo during the war and has some great stories. He loved the land and the people; the food, well let’s just say it was from the streets.

    Stick to your schedules as I’m sure I’m not the only fan that misses hearing from you. By the way I really appreciate the weird you, as I think that’s how you write such fantastic stories.

    Well that’s it, please give my hellos and best wishes to your lovely wife. Again please post regularly.

    Your fan always,
    Dina Bushrod

    1. That’s interesting about your dad! Updating more often has been on my list for a while, but I’ve definitely fallen out of the habit. I enjoy doing it so hopefully I can keep the pace.

  2. Really enjoyed this. It actually seemed like it was written about me! Weird? Think it might run in the family. 😊. The rule of three sounds doable. Looking forward to giving it s try next week. (I start anything new on Monday). I’ll let I know how it goes. Big hugs! 😘

    1. Well it seems like we must get it from somewhere! I tried it yesterday and it seemed to work pretty well. Makes things manageable without it being too overwhelming.

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